Story Walk: deaf

Story Walk: "deaf"

The History of the Rochester School for the Deaf by Allis D'Amanda

Mary Nodine was engaged to Zenas Westervelt, a teacher at the Maryland School for the Deaf, and often came to visit at the Perkin’s household. For years Mr. Westervelt had been gathering names of deaf children in central and western New York who were not in school. He felt Rochester would be a good location for a school for deaf children, because of the high number of deaf children in the area Mrs. Perkins became aware of Mr. Westervelt’s project and proposed that after their marriage Miss Nodine and Mr. Westervelt open a school for the deaf in Rochester.

My grandfather, Emund Lyon, was interested in educational and philanthropic activities, and through his friendship with the Perkins family participated in the formation of the new school. On October 4, 1876, the school opened on the corner of South St. Paul (today South Ave.) and Court Street with twenty students and four teachers. In 1878, with 87 students, the school, moved to its present location on St. Paul Blvd.

One of the four first teachers was my grandmother’s aunt Harriet Hamilton, a teacher at the New York School for the Deaf. Harriet had studied under Alexander Graham Bell, and it is a tribute to her special teaching abilities that Dr. Bell and Annie Sullivan sought her views in the early training of Helen Keller and brought her to visit the school. In 1879, at the age of nineteen, my grandmother Carolyn Talcott left Hartford Connecticut, and joined her aunt at the school, where she lived for seventeen years.

The Rochester School for the Deaf has been part of my family for over 100 years. My grandparents Edmund and Carolyn Lyon met at the school through their interest in teaching and caring for deaf children. My mother would come to Board meetings even when she was wheelchair bound, and I have been a long time Board member myself. I salute with pride, the many people who have dedicated their lives to giving deaf children that most precious right, equal educational opportunities.