Gallaudet Chooses a Popular Interim President; Deaf Educator Has Been Part of the University over Decades
Byline: Arlo Wagner, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Gallaudet University officials said yesterday deaf educator Robert R. Davila will be the interim president, a decision welcomed by most of those who attended a post-announcement reception.
"Today, the whole audience was elated," said Mike Kaika, a retired public-relations employee at Gallaudet, the country's only liberal arts college for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Mr. Davila, 74, a former Gallaudet professor and Education Department appointee under President George H.W. Bush, was selected by the school's board of trustees from among three finalists, all of whom are deaf.
He will take office Jan. 2 for 18 or 24 months, replacing President-select Jane K. Fernandes. The board revoked Mrs. Fernandes' appointment following months of protests by students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Mr. Davila grew up in California, one of five sons of Mexican parents, and became deaf when he was 8. He attended the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley, and learned American Sign Language and English. He graduated from Gallaudet in 1953 and returned in 1972. He spent 17 more years on campus, as a teacher and administrator, including the post of vice president for pre-college programs.
In 1989, Mr. Bush appointed him assistant secretary for rehabilitative services at the Education Department, the highest federal job attained by a deaf person. From 1996 to 2004, Mr. Davila was vice president of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, one of seven colleges of the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"I am honored to once again serve my alma mater," he said. "I am fortunate to possess the energy, drive and dedication that will be required to lead our university over the coming months."
Gallaudet rules prohibit interim presidents from being appointed president. They initially serve 18 months, but the term can be expanded six more months during the presidential selection process. Mr. Davila said he would be ready to retire again by then.
"Eighteen months is too short," said LaToya Plummer, a junior and spokeswoman for Gallaudet's Faculty Staff Student Alumni Coalition. "There are a lot of things that need to be changed. We want to give Mr. Davila a chance to clean up the situation. …