Monday, April 3, 2017

Deaf American Honored by United States Postal Service

Robert Panara Commemorative Distinguished American Postage Stamp  

Have you heard of Robert Panara?

He was a respected teacher, poet, and pioneer in the field of Deaf Studies. Panara became deaf at the age of ten when spinal meningitis took his hearing away.

Robert Panara Postage Stamp

Panara had a distinguished education, graduating "from Gallaudet College, the first deaf college to be allowed to grant degrees, and then became the first deaf person to receive a master’s degree in English from New York University." [The Economist]

Born July 8, 1920 in the Bronx, he passed away on July 20, 2014 at the age of 94.

His life was long and deep with significance for the deaf community.


"Blindness cuts people off from things,

but deafness cuts people off from people."

– Helen Keller


Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, once said, "Blindness cuts people off from things, but deafness cuts people off from people." As we all know, her life of writing and communicating with people – on her own terms – eloquently disproved that saying. However, it poignantly expresses the truth of the significant challenge and potential isolation uniquely faced by the deaf.

To say that Robert Panara was an advocate for the education and inclusion of the deaf so that they would not be cut off from people would be to understate his contribution and lasting legacy to that community.

A Shakespearean scholar, Panara developed some of the first plays for deaf actors and audiences. He was instrumental in founding the National Theater of the Deaf in connection with the American School for the Deaf.

For almost twenty years, Panara taught English and Drama at his alma mater, Gallaudet. He also taught at a private nonprofit school, the New York School for the Deaf, known as Fanwood.

In addition, he helped found the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Teaching literature at NTID, he was the first deaf professor in higher education in America. These are just the headlines, the merest whispers, of his contributions to deaf culture and education.

As well as being a noted educator, Panara was a well-known writer in his day. In 1946, he published his most famous poem, "On His Deafness."

It begins in a style reminiscent of John Milton's famous poem, "On His Blindness":

"My ears are deaf, and yet I seem to hear
Sweet nature’s music and the songs of man
For I have learned from Fancy’s artisan
How written words can thrill the inner ear
Just as they move the heart, and so for me
They also seem to ring out loud and free.

It concludes with an amazing Keatsian sensuality, arousing in the mind's ear sounds normally denied the ears of the deaf -- but able to be heard clear as crystal by those who read it enthralled by the magic of its words and evocative imagery.

"In silent study I have learned to tell
Each secret shade of meaning and to hear
A magic harmony, at once sincere,
That somehow notes the tinkle of a bell,
The cooing of a dove, the swish of leaves,
The raindrop's pitter-patter on the eaves,
The lover's sigh, the thrumming of guitar,
And, if I choose, the rustle of a star!

USPS Robert Panera Distinguished American Stamp Invitation

To its credit, the United States Postal Service has chosen to honor Robert Panara as its 16th stamp in the Distinguished American series.

This stamp's issuance coincides with the 200th anniversary of the founding in 1817 of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, which marked the beginning of formal education for deaf students in America.

The United States Postal Service has extended a cordial invitation to the public to attend the First-Day-of-Issue Dedication Ceremony being held in Rochester to commemorate the Robert Panara Two Ounce Stamp. Details are below.


Robert Panara Stamp Dedication


Tuesday, April 11, 2017 10:00 a.m. EST


Robert F. Panara Theatre
Rochester Institute of Technology
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Lyndon Baines Johnson Building
52 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623-5604



If you're interested, the stamp is now available for pre-order on the USPS website.

Robert Panara Two Ounce Stamp

Robert Panara

Two-Ounce 70¢ | Sheet of 20

The 16th stamp in the Distinguished Americans series honors Robert Panara (1920-2014), an influential teacher and a pioneer in the field of Deaf Studies. The stamp features a photograph of Panara taken in 2009. He is shown signing the word “respect.”

During his forty-year teaching career, Robert Panara inspired generations of students with his powerful use of American Sign Language to convey Shakespeare and other works of literature. His contributions to the field of Deaf Studies included influential articles he wrote in the 1970s on deaf American writers and deaf characters in modern literature, and the book Great Deaf Americans (1983).

Panara taught at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., for nearly twenty years beginning in 1948, and at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (part of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York State) from its founding in 1967 to 1987. He was one of the founders, in 1967, of the groundbreaking National Theatre of the Deaf in Waterford, Connecticut, which provided deaf actors with a venue for thriving in the performing arts.

Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with an existing photograph by Mark Benjamin, official photographer of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The words "Two Ounce" on this stamp indicate its usage value. Like a Forever® stamp, this stamp will always be valid for the rate printed on it.

Made in the USA.

Issue Date: April 11, 2017

Art Director/Designer: Ethel Kessler

SKU: 114004

#PanaraForever #DeafEducation


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