RIVERSIDE, CALIF. (AP) - Lawrence R. Newman, who served two terms as president of the National Association of the Deaf, has died in California at age 86.
He died Monday at his Riverside home from complications of emergency surgery and Parkinson’s disease, his daughter Laureen Newman-Feldhorn said.
Newman taught at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside and was an outspoken advocate for deaf rights.
When he was 5, a chronic ear infection led to mastoiditis, an infection of the skull bone behind the ear, according to a 2010 story in the magazine Deaf Life. During surgery, a doctor accidentally severed a nerve that left Newman deaf and caused the left side of his face to become motionless.
“Larry was a true gentleman and someone I admired for his hard work and dedication on behalf of the deaf community,” T. Alan Hurwitz, president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
“His legacy for his contributions to the betterment of education for deaf children will forever be remembered,” Hurwitz said. “He was a significant role model for me, and I know he will always be regarded as a giant in the deaf community.”
Newman started teaching math at the California School for the Deaf in 1953. He was chosen teacher of the year in California in 1969, the first time the state had given that title to a deaf teacher.
Newman earned his bachelor’s degree in English and met his future wife of 61 years, Betty, who was hard of hearing most of her life and became deaf in her late 40s, at what is now Gallaudet. The couple had two sons and three daughters.
Newman was president of the national deaf association and assistant superintendent at the Riverside school in 1988 when a woman who was not deaf was chosen Gallaudet president over two deaf finalists.
Newman joined forces with Gallaudet students to protest the selection.
“The deaf people here are stunned and outraged,” Newman told the Washington Post at the time. “Hearing people have all kinds of ways to move up in the world. There’s only one place for deaf people to move up, and that’s Gallaudet.”
After five days as president, the woman resigned, and I. King Jordan became the first deaf president in the university’s history. At induction ceremonies, Newman told the crowd Jordan’s installation “marks the emancipation of deaf people from the shackles of limitations.”
Newman, the author of two books, was also a leading supporter of captioned television, which has become widely available.
A memorial service for Newman was scheduled Thursday at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.