Percival Hall

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Hall's childhood home in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Percival Hall (September 16, 1872 – November 7, 1953)[1] was the second president of Gallaudet University (1910 – 1945).[2] He was a strong advocate of the use of sign language in the education of the deaf, and also an advocate for deaf rights to vote, work, participate in sports, marry, and drive automobiles.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

The son of astronomer Asaph Hall, III (1829 – 1907) and Angeline Stickney Hall (1830 – 1892), he was born in Georgetown, Washington, DC, the youngest of four brothers.[3] His eldest brother was Asaph Hall, Jr..

Percival Hall took a degree in mathematics at Harvard University in 1892. While still a student, he worked as an architectural surveyor for the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) railroad, making drawings of existing structures with plans for improving bridges, as well as plans for proposed structures in the expansion of the railroad. The work was hard, as much of the time was spent in wild areas that required him to camp; hunting and cooking his own food. He observed that he saw few older people in this employment and that the work took a heavy toll on his colleagues.[4]

A friend and roommate from Harvard, Allen Bradshaw Fay, whose father, Edward Allen Fay, was the Vice-President of the college, suggested that he teach the deaf.[1] Initially his family tried to dissuade him, as they felt that, with his adventurous spirit, he would soon be bored with life as a teacher. But Hall felt that he could make a contribution to the developing field of deaf education.[4]


Hall entered Gallaudet's Normal School, graduating with an MA in Deaf Education in 1893. Following his graduation, he taught at the New York School for the Deaf for two years before teaching mathematics and Latin at Gallaudet. He became president after the retirement of President Edward Miner Gallaudet in 1910.[1] In 1935 President Hall was given an Honorary Doctorate (L.H.D.) by the college.[5]

He felt that, given the opportunity of higher education, there were many fields in which deaf people could excel. He published many articles on the education of the deaf.

Percival Hall also helped establish the Kappa Gamma Fraternity at Gallaudet University along with three undergraduate students on January 4, 1901.[6]

Family life[edit]

Hall married Carolyn L. Clarke in June 1895, but she later died of illness in January 1896. In June 1900, he married Ethel Zoe Taylor, who had been a deaf student at Gallaudet, shortly after she earned her BA.[1] They had three children, Percival Hall, Jr. (1901 – 1968),[7] professor of mathematics and astronomy at Gallaudet; Marion Hall Fisher, a writer (1905 – deceased, April 4, 1983);[8] and Jonathan Hall (1912 – 2008), professor of natural science at Gallaudet. Jonathan was born in "House One," on campus, on February 6, 1912.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e Papers of Dr. Percival Hall, Gallaudet University Archives
  2. ^ Presidents & Terms, Gallaudet University
  3. ^ An Astronomer's Wife, Angelo Hall, Nunn & Co.: 1908. Reprinted by BiblioLife, 2008.
  4. ^ a b From a personal collection of letters. S.A. Hall
  5. ^ Gallaudet University Archives
  6. ^
  7. ^ Obituary, The Washington Post, July 24, 1968, p. B3
  8. ^ Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, New Hampshire, May 2, 1983, page 15. Per the obituary, Marion Hall worked as secretary to John Collier, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. She married a college professor and lived in the Newmarket, New Hampshire area from 1969 to 1981, then lived in Baltimore, Maryland until her death. At the time of her death she was working on a biography of Fannie Calderon
  9. ^ "An Engaging Teacher, Whether In the Classroom or With Pets," Matt Schudel, The Washington Post, March 16, 2008 p. C8
Academic offices
Preceded by
Edward Miner Gallaudet
President of Gallaudet University
September 22, 1910 - June 16, 1945
Succeeded by
Leonard M. Elstad