Kentucky School for the Deaf’s 200th celebration starts Monday

Published 11:00 am Friday, April 7, 2023


The Kentucky School for the deaf will be celebrating its 200th anniversary week from April 10 through April 16.

The celebration will honor the history of the school, which was the first state supported school for the deaf west of Alleghenies when it was founded in 1823.

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Events start on Monday, April 10, which is Founder’s Day of Ky School for the Deaf. The Open House Reception will be at the Jacobs Hall Museum from 6 to 8:30 p.m. with light refreshments served.

The event is free and open to anyone to browse the historical museum. In anticipation of the celebration, new displays have been put up at Jacobs Hall.

“There are going to be amazing things to see even if you have been there before, it is very culturally rich,” said KSD Bicentennial celebration co-chair Barbie Harris. “Many of you may not know, that during the civil war we had students stay on campus. KSD housed troops from both the North and South at separate times. At least once the soldiers gathered up all the students to make them leave campus but left them alone when they realized they were deaf. After the war was over, a deaf teacher name Jeff Blant rode a horse to Perryville where the battle was and saw the bodies in the area, he rode back to the school and requested from the president of the school that the bodies be buried. KSD students were used to dig many of the graves of the deceased on the battlefield. That is just one example of the historical things you can see when you come out to the celebration.”

KSD Principal Toyah Robey said the school has been a part of so much history and has grown alongside Kentucky. She said students, staff and alumni are excited to share the school’s history with people.

“Just the fact that it’s our 200th is exciting and it’s such an honor to be able to take part in such an auspicious occasion,” Robey said. “Very few entities can say they have been around for 200 years.”

Celebrations for the rest of the week are as follows:

• April 10 – Mayor James Atkins will make a presentation of proclamation for the bicentennial at the city commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. – the public is invited.

• April 13 – Multiple events will be held in front of Nancy Lee Hall, including a reenactment of the founding of KSD, presentations on the history of the school, storytelling, deaf history facts and a banner presentation. It will be under the canopy in front of Nancy Lee Hall on the corner of MLK and 2nd Streets from noon to 3 p.m.  It is open to the public, and drone pictures will be taken in aerial view.

• April 13 – The Art Center of the Bluegrass is showing an exhibit called Kentucky School for the Deaf: Celebrating 200 years, which features alumni and current student works, alongside memorabilia from the history of KSD. The exhibit’s opening reception is Thursday, April 13 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., and will be on display until April 29.

• April 14 – Events at Kerr Hall on the KSD campus are limited to invitations, mainly for KSD students, staff, alumni and parents. From 8:15 to 9:30 a.m. there will be Deaf Panelists with alumni in different eras in their careers. Facilitator Tim Lush will ask questions about what their lifestyle was like to compare for today’s generation.

All students, staff and parents have the chance to see the Time Capsule from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. From 11:30 to 12:15 p.m. students can watch and meet the gala’s special guest in Thomas Gym. Jacobs Hall Museum will host Class Reunions from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.  which is not open to the public.

• April 15 –  Jacobs Hall Museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• April 15 – The Anniversary Gala is at the Hilton Downtown Lexington Hotel from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m. The gala will have a silent auction and a special feature speaker, which will be announced soon. Over 400 people bought tickets and the event is sold out, so it is not available to the public.

• April 16 – Clays Mill Baptist Church on Brannon Road in Nicholasville will be hosting “Deaf Education Day” from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Senator Donald Douglas and other senators will present the resolution to recognize the school’s 200th anniversary to the alumni, KSD staff, students, parents and retired and former employees. There will be lunch with BBQ afterwards and it is open to the public.

Robey said that KSD alumni and members of the Deaf community will be traveling from across the country to attend the various events. She thanked everyone who has been involved in organizing events.

“We are so grateful to our alumni and retired staff for their endless hours of planning to make our 200th so memorable,” Robey said.

KSD started celebrating in July 2022, with the Deaf Olympics at KSD with students from all over the country in attendance. In March 2023, KSD hosted the Gallaudet University Regional Academic Bowl for Deaf Schools with 18 teams in attendance from as far as Riverside, California to compete.

Robey said that one of the most significant and long-lasting projects the past year was by a small group of KSD students and two of their teachers. They designed and constructed a 3×10 foot stained glass window depicting the history of KSD. It was installed in the entrance foyer of Thomas Hall.