KSD 200th anniversary was a success

Published 5:59 am Friday, April 28, 2023

The Kentucky School for the Deaf celebrated its bicentennial during the week of April 10 to 16. Celebrations throughout the week included tours of historic Jacobs Hall; an array of presentations about KSD history by current students; a time capsule opening; proclamations from local officials; a formal gala with a famous special guest, and other events.

During the April 10th, “Founder’s Day” of Kentucky School for the Deaf opening reception at Jacobs Hall Museum, Danville Mayor James Atkins made a proclamation presentation for the anniversary, and made a toast to the school. Also in attendance were Judge Executive Trille Bottom, State Senator Amanda Mays Bledsoe, and others.

On April 13, people gathered at Nancy Lee Hall to learn more about KSD history. KSD students and teachers made presentations and performed skits. 

Email newsletter signup

They shared information about KSD’s beginnings; KSD during the Civil War; the school’s agricultural history; the history of school lunches; history of fashion at the school; shared historical photos, among other things. 

On April 14, KSD officials opened a time capsule located near Kerr Hall, which was buried at the 175th anniversary in 1998. However, KSD Principal Toyah Robey said that the time capsule ended up not being fully waterproof like they anticipated back then.

Many of the items were damaged by water, but may still be put on display.  Officials are taking measures to preserve some of the artifacts and are contacting professionals for advice.

They put together a new time capsule with items that current students picked out. It will be opened at the 225th anniversary in 2048. The students and staff have put items such as small art drawings, writing letters, and “KY Standard celebrates 125th,” 150th, and 175th copies and a program book of 200th Gala with some historical facts.

Also, a KSD pencil unsharpened, a KSD mascot troll doll, yearbook, KSD’s T-shirt, KSD’s Maintenance staff’s gardener gloves and a 200th Bicentennial Coin are in the time capsule. They took pictures of each item, and double wrapped each one twice in Ziploc bags before putting them into the time capsule.

KSD 200th Anniversary Committee Co-chair Barbie Harris explained that there are new time capsules buried every 25 years, as a legacy for different generations to share with one another. 

Also on April 14, elementary, middle and high school students got to hear from a panel of other Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. Panelists shared about what they do for a living, what their jobs were like as Deaf people, and how they became successful Deaf people. 

All the panelists were alumni of the school from all different classes. Robey said some panelists traveled there from around the country. The panelists were Beulah Hester, (Danville, KY), Brian Embrey (Tennessee), Chris Harris (New Jersey), Floyd Hack (Careyville, KY), Mary Ann Leon (Arizona), David Hamilton (California), Stephanie Hamilton (Maryland), Oscar Hamilton (Lexington,KY), Bethany Yance ( Wash D.C.), Sheryl Kassinger (Bardstown, KY), and Kevin Hamilton (Danville, KY).

The panelists came from various backgrounds – including a photographer, teacher, KSD Houseparent, pastor, farmer, postal worker; and from more specialized backgrounds – a retired CIA agent, and a systems analyst in Washington.

Tim Lush, 200th Committee facilitator, asked the panelists various questions about their life as a student at KSD academically, involvement with sports, extra-curricular activities, and dorm lifestyle. The panelists agreed that the teachers and staff were trained well to achieve their career choices, and gave the current students some feedback to pursue dreams. 

Students loved hearing from David Hamilton, who shared about how he worked to earn five gold medals at the World Deaflympics. Also, at the panel was KSD’s oldest living alumni, Beulah Hester, who is 94 years old and worked as a dorm houseparent for many years and she gave some advice tips to students. 

Students also got to meet a famous special guest that day, Troy Kotsur. He was the first Deaf male to receive an Oscar award, which was for the movie “CODA.” 

On April 14, there were variety of Class reunions at the Jacobs Hall Museum where old friends got together to meet and see some of the old albums, artifacts, and stories to share. Some of the class reunions met on their own such as the Class of 1972, who went out for a dinner to catch up with their old friends and classmates. 

Jennifer Harris, Chair of 200th Gala introduced Troy Kotsur as the guest of honor at April 15’s Gala in Lexington. Kotsur’s wife Deanne Bray, who is an actress on a TV series “F.B.Eye,” was also there.  There were 400 guests at the Gala, including special guests such as Danville Mayor James Atkins and his wife Artie, Centre College President Morris Moreland and his wife Dina, Senator Amanda Bledsoe, KDE Representative Lou Young, Commissioner of Education Dr. Jason Glass and his wife Sarah, Dr. Harvey Corson (former KSD’s First Deaf Superintendent) and his wife, Mary Ann Corson from Hartford, Ct., Jeff Bravin, Superintendent of American School for the Deaf, Antony McLetchie Superintendent of Rochester School for the Deaf, Kent Mann, former KSD Principal and retired North Carolina School for the Deaf Superintendent, Peter Bailey, retired Superintendent from Pa. School for the Deaf and currently Superintendent of Texas School for the Deaf, and Russell West, former KSD alumni who is now the Superintendent of Lexington School for the Deaf in New York.  

The audience enjoyed the Master of Ceremonies David Hamilton – Mary Ann Leon. David and Mary Ann performed some KSD Trivia for the audience to test their knowledge of KSD history. After the program they are remising each other among variety of classes. The famous DJ Band Nico DiMarco is the twin brother of Nyle DiMarco, a former Dancing through Stars performed some music and dancing that evening. It was a night to remembered by as the legacy still carries on.

April 16 was “Deaf Education Day” as part of Kentucky 200th Anniversary. Clays Mill Baptist Church in Nicholasville held a celebration that honored teachers, retired teachers, and others involved in deaf education. The Deaf ministry had over 150 in the morning service. Ky State Senators and Representatives, current and former students, teachers, dorm staff, Superintendents and Principals from the Ky School for the Deaf were present.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing people from out of state such as Washington, Arizona, California, Oregon, Indiana, Ohio, Connecticut and all over from Kentucky attended the church. Assistant Pastor Jeff Harris read the resolution that Senator Donald Douglas read a few weeks ago at the Capitol. CMBC Pastor Jeff Fugate gave a wonderful scripture lesson for all. 

New Jacobs Hall exhibits

The 200th Anniversary Committee worked hard on not only putting together these events, but also putting together new displays at Jacobs Hall Museum.

On April 10, the public got to see several new displays that museum staff researched for the anniversary. They include information about and pictures of the Colored School at KSD, the Civil war, notable alumni and historic figures involved in the school, new-found photos of old sports teams, student societies, the Kentucky Standard, and other things.

The museum now has a new full room about clubs, which is a permanent new exhibit. The room shows Boy Scout memorabilia, pictures of key clubs, and a bicycle club in Danville from the late 1800s.

“We just keep finding things in the archives and doing more research, and as we find more we just keep adding and adding,” Harris said. “But there’s so few of us volunteering here to do all that research; if we had plenty more people we could get rolling and do a lot.”

Those involved in researching and putting together new exhibits include Harris, Joann Hamm, Scott Haun, Roger McCowan, Rhonda Bodner, Linda Cress, Mary Fran Melton, Ben Justice, who is a KSD alum and current Centre College student, and others.

Hamm said that they find pictures and information in the upstairs Jacobs Hall archives, and that they have an extensive picture collection. Harris said they always welcome alumni and others to share stories.

Harris said that through publicizing anniversary events, they came across a woman who found out she is related to a founder of KSD, General Elias Barbee. He was a state senator whose daughter was deaf, and he passed an act to establish the deaf school in 1823.

Nancy Barbee reached out to them on Facebook, who found out she is a descendent of Elias Barbee. Harris explained that several generations ago, some of the Barbee family moved from Kentucky to Missouri, and future generations kept spreading out west, as Nancy lives in the state of Washington.

Nancy traveled to KSD for the anniversary week events, visited Jacobs Hall and learned more about her family.

Jacobs Hall Museum will be open to the public on July 28 for tours from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Anniversary events will continue with a Family Learning Vacation from June 2 to 4. Harris said this is for families all over Kentucky with DHH kids to come take workshops, learn about sign language, and how to communicate with kids, since some parents are new to the Deaf community.

DHH participants ages 6-20 will participate in Mini Deaf Olympics in July. The 40th anniversary of the Deaf Youth Sports Festival is July 9-15. The participants learn to work as a team with social skills, compete each other for sports and special entertainments during the week. The participants receive a medal or few medals based on the team and individual competitions.

On July 29, there will be a KSDAA picnic and sports tournament with flag football, where coaches, alumni, and current players will come together. Afterward, a sports banquet will be held at Grow Hall at 7 p.m. 

The 3rd Annual 5K Arlen Finke’s Fun Run/Walk event will occur in September/ October 2023 as the last event of the 200th Anniversary events. Watch for the announcement for anyone who would like to support this fundraising event by participating the 5K run or walk. 

During each event of the anniversary week April 10-16, KSD asked the public to take the moment of silence in memory of Dot Stallard who had passed away on April 7, 2023. She was a devoted pioneer interpreter for the state of Kentucky and a loyal person to KSD as her parents Charles and Myree Thomas were alumni.