Graduation Day 2017

How I became involved with ASL

Batavia, New York, a small city on the western side of New York State was my birthplace. I lived in Mount Morris after that until Christmas break of my year in second grade. Then the family moved back to Batavia to work a dairy and grain farm.

Way back there, I got interested in sign language and learned from anyone who was interested in listening. When I got my car, I visited a Deaf couple who sort of “adopted” me and gave me a “different” way of signing. I learned later they were using ASL (American Sign Language).

I had two years in Houghton College in southern New York state, and I read how hearing people who are directly involved with Deaf people may have some serious negative reactions. I associated what I read with “culture shock” that missionaries go through when they move to cultures that are very different.

Sure enough, soon Deaf strategists were calling the Deaf people group, Deaf Culture!

I decided to go to Central Bible College for two semesters, not exactly because I was interested in the classes; I was in having a Deaf roommate. That way, I was assured I know by first-hand experience that I could live and work in Deaf Culture and handle any “shock” I could face.

The shock was not exactly because I was introduced to a new culture. It was more due to two reasons:

1) I knew ASL fairly well by that time, but I realized right away that I couldn’t “read between the lines” (signs). I realized that nuances were common in ASL just as in English and as an “outsider” all I could do was put together the surface meaning of a group of signs, not the “deep structure.”

2) My Deaf college friends came away from class hearing Bible stories; I came away with doctrine and theology! Some of the staff working in the Deaf Program assured me: Deaf people have trouble with abstractions.”

I sensed the opinion was wrong, but I didn’t know why.

In time, I figure out that it’s not the Deaf People who struggle, but educators, both in regular schools and post-secondary programs do not know how to use ASL to describe abstractions!

I left Central Bible College after two semesters, moved to Rochester, New York and got a job interpreting in The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a part of The Rochester Institute of Technology. I enrolled in Roberts Wesleyan College nearby.

Deaf students started a Bible study, and I became the faculty advisor. As they grew, the idea came that we could start a sort of mime/ministry team and travel. Deaf students from We organized over Christmas Break of 1970, decided on a name after a few tours – The Tenth Coin. The first members were students of either NTID or RWC.

We traveled for 27 years until after an accident with the van, I took the job teaching at GCC where I am working now.

Those 27 years living with D/deaf people and hearing people who wanted to learn ASL formed the ideas I have about Deaf-Hearing dynamics; Deaf Ministry, and the accurate use of ASL as a language!