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Robert F Panara

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 7 months ago



Born on July 20, 1920 in Bronx of New York City, Robert Panara contracted spinal meningitis at the age of 10 and became profoundly deaf. What seemed to be an unfortunate illness later became evident as one of the best things that happened to him. "While he was recovering from his illness, his cousins brought him stacks of books, and he soon became a voracious reader" (Lang & Meath, 1995, p. 287). Panara's readings continued after recovery throughout his youthful education years. With no interpreters or note takers available, he would sit in class with a stack of novels and poetry verses and read throughout classes (Lang & Meath, 1995). Growing up he knew no sign until after graduation from high school in 1938 while working for a clothing factory in Fall River, Massachusetts, he learned about Gallaudet College and decided to learn sign language at the American School for the Deaf. Upon learning he enrolled Gallaudet in 1940. At Gallaudet he majored in English and literature being strongly influenced by Frederick Hughes, a deaf professor of drama and economics (Lang & Meath, 1995). Panara's many achievements began after his discovery of Gallaudet College, there he wrote "The Significance of the Reading Problem," which first expressed his belief that teaching "comes from the heart and soul" (Lang, 2007).


Upon graduation from Gallaudet College in 1945 he secured a job at New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, where he was an instructor in English, American History, Literature and Algebra. His teachings influenced many young students including Bernard Bragg and Eugene Bergman, who would become masters of dramatic arts and literature (Lang & Meath, 1995). While teaching, he attended New York University and obtained his Masters in English in 1948. In 1949 he became an instructor at Gallaudet College teaching English and served as an advisor for the Literacy Club, Dramatics Club, the campus newspaper and literacy magazine (Lang & Meath, 1995). 1966 was the year National Institute of Technology in Rochester was founded, the following year Panara became the first deaf professor there. "He established the English Department, won the NTID Student Association Outstanding Staff Award, and the RIT Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching" (Lang & Meath, 1995, p. 288). Upon his retirement in 1987, NTID/RIT named the college theatre and established the Robert F. Panara Scholarship Fund in his honor.


His professional life involved being recognized as a highly elite professor at Gallaudet and NTID along with his one year sabbatical leave from NTID as a visiting professor at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). "This gave him the unique distinction of being the only person to teach full-time at each of the three major postsecondary programs for deaf students in the United States" (Lang & Meath, 1995, p. 290). Panara wrote various of articles and poetry in support of expanding deaf culture studies, poetry as a form of learning literature for deaf students, and understanding drama. He was a founding member of the national Theatre of the Deaf and honored by the World Federation of the Deaf for his contributions to education and culture (Lang & Meath, 1995). As Oscar Ocuto states, Robert F. Panara is the E.E. Cummings of deaf literature (www.deafdc.com) and his works has continued to shine in the education of the Deaf.




Lang, H., & Meath-Lang, B. (1995). Deaf persons in the arts and sciences. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.


Lang, H (2007). Teaching from the heart and soul: the robert f. panara story. Retrieved September 15, 2007 from http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/bookpage/TFHSbookpage.html


Ocuto, O (2006, March 9). DeafDC Blog. Robert f. panara...a master amongst men. Retrieved September 15, 2007 from http://www.deafdc.com/blog/oscar-ocuto/2006-03-09/robert-f-panaraa-master-amongst-men


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