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Yale University Laurent Clerc History Presentation: April 4, 2023

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Laurent Clerc has some history with Yale University. When he arrived in America with Thomas Gallaudet he was a prisoner of that minister’s itinerary. On their way to Hartford from New York City in 1816 they stopped at Yale to have dinner with the then president, the Reverend Timothy Dwight.

Laurent may have visited Yale in the years afterwards but we have not yet found that reference. However, he might have been involved in discussions with his grandson, Henry Agustin Beers, about attending Yale. Beers would become a prominent professor of literature there and began three generations of uninterrupted attendance (until my father).

Laurent’s legacy at Yale would be cemented further by the donation of his letters and documents in 1962 by my grandfather, Guy Bryan Holt. These papers were obtained by the American School for the Deaf (ASD) from Francis Clerc Ogden, great grandson, of Wilton CT. Francis was also the owner of the recently loaned historical documents, the Wilton Clerc Papers, that were recently given by the Wilton Historical Society to ASD in 2022.

Several trips to view the Yale archival documents gave Laurent Clerc Holt an opportunity to meet some of the teachers of American Sign Language (ASL) in the Linguistic Department. The program director, Julia Silvestri (right) and instructor, Leslie Rubin (left).

Laurent Clerc Holt was able to attend an ASL Pep Rally practice for an upcoming football game.

These Yale instructors and their students have been so inviting and it is always a joy to visit with them while working on the Yale Clerc Papers at the archives.

In March 2023, Laurent Clerc Holt was contacted by Cara Joyce, an ASL student asking for more information on Laurent Clerc and wishing to arrange for a history presentation. Laurent Clerc Holt just happened to be honing his Laurent Clerc road show and agreed to present on April 4, 2023.

Laurent Clerc Holt’s day started with a visit to the Clerc Papers at the Yale Archives. Flat Laurent accompanied him on a visit to the Yale Campus. This could very well have been a photo of Laurent Clerc showing his 4x great grandson the school during college tour time.

No visit to Yale is complete without a visit to the famous Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet stained glass window in the Slavic Reading Room at Yale.

The afternoon continued with a visit to Julia’s 3rd year ASL classroom which was focusing on poetry.

Then we went into Leslie’s classroom to observe her work teaching more 3rd year students ASL.

That evening, accompanied by Flat Laurent and an interpreter provided by Yale, Laurent Clerc Holt gave the speed history of early Deaf education and Laurent Clerc’s pivotal role in it.

At the end of the presentation, Laurent Clerc Holt presented on behalf of the American School for the Deaf, to Julia, her ASL students and the Linguistics Department, their very own Flat Laurent. (Cara center)

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