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American School for the Deaf Founders Day 2023

Every year about this time the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, CT celebrates Founders Day to acknowledge the men and women of early Deaf Education in the United States. Held as close to April 17th each year, Founders Day involves staff and students, taking a few minutes out of their busy day to remember Laurent Clerc, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Mason Cogswell.

This year it took place on April 5th and started as it does every year with a brief assembly in the main hallway of the school. Jeff Bravin dresses up as Laurent Clerc and is accompanied by actors playing

Thomas and some years Alice Cogswell. Each year Jeff and his Thomas spar around how old they are and how well they look for being so old. The students will try to guess their ages and Jeff uses this short skit to convey some of the essential facts of the ASD origin story.

Afterwards, the whole crowd makes the obligatory trip to the Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet statue that stands outside the front door of the school. A student is chosen to lay a basket of flowers at the foot of the monument.

Then the crowd will make their way over to the Clerc Monument where the story continues. This year Laurent Clerc Holt was present to watch the actors discuss Laurent’s contributions and later pictures were taken.

Flowers are laid and this year a photo included Darlene Borsotti, relative of Eliza Crocker Boardman, Laurent’s wife.

The school will retreat to the auditorium for a presentation by members of the ASD community. Jeff inducts members of Deaf History into a hall of fame. Students perform poems about significant contributors in the school’s history.

This year, Laurent Clerc Holt was able to present some new information on the school’s acquisition of the Wilton Clerc Papers. These valuable Clerc documents, discovered in the Wilton Library have been permanently loaned to ASD by the Wilton Historical Society. We have a link to the presentation, without sound, but signed by ASD interpreters.

Another exciting part of the presentation was the unveiling of the Wilton Papers Storyboards. Created by Jean Linderman, curator at the History & Cogswell Heritage House. These boards highlight some of the major items discovered in the acquisition. Here is the board that outlines the collections material about the famous Peale Portraits.

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