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In Memoriam: Mervin D. Garretson, 21st NAD President & 5th Executive Director

MervCarolIn Memoriam: Mervin D. Garretson, 21st NAD President & 5th Executive Director

January 11, 2013

Mervin D. Garretson
21st NAD President & 5th Executive Director
July 25, 1923 — January 9, 2013

National Association of the Deaf (NAD) mourns the loss of one of its greatest leaders – the only person to have served the organization both as a President and as an Executive Director. Mervin D. “Merv” Garretson passed away at the age of 89 on January 9, 2013 in Summerfield, Florida. He was born on July 25, 1923 in Sheridan, Wyoming. The love of his life, his wife Carol Jean Kaull Garretson passed away less than two months earlier, on November 28, 2012. They are survived by their five daughters (Randee, Shelley, Kyrie, Kaja, and Kelsi), seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Born to a cattle ranching family in northern Wyoming, Merv became deaf from spinal meningitis at the age of five. He attended the Colorado School for the Deaf and earned his Bachelor’s degree in 1947 at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, his Master’s degree from the University of Wyoming in 1955, followed by pursuit of doctoral studies in English at the University of Maryland in College Park. He also received honorary doctorate degrees from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York (1993) and his alma mater, Gallaudet (1974).

Merv began his professional career as a teacher at the Maryland School for the Deaf (1948-1949) and went on to become principal at the Montana School for the Deaf (1949-1962). From there, he became a professor at Gallaudet University where he served as teacher, advisor and mentor to many deaf students who went on to become educational leaders at schools for the deaf across the country. When the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) was established, he was asked to be its principal. While there, he became dean for Pre-College Programs (now known as the Clerc Center) and later served as special assistant for four Gallaudet University presidents. At Gallaudet he chaired the highly acclaimed Deaf Way international cultural festival, which had a huge impact on deaf arts, especially the birth of the De’VIA movement.

Long active in the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Merv was elected as the 21st president (1976-1978). He had the distinctive honor of having known George Veditz, the seventh NAD president, who influenced him as a young boy. He worked with Byron B. Burnes, the 17th NAD president and his wife Caroline Burnes on the concept for Junior NAD, which became reality with Merv as its first national director in 1960.

While Merv was in Montana, the Montana Association of the Deaf sent him to what is now known as the original Fulton Tontine at the Missouri School for the Deaf in 1956. This meeting of leaders from across the nation developed a proposal that led to the restructuring of the NAD as a federation of state organizational affiliates, which continues to this day. At the Tontine, the group agreed that the last surviving person would uncork and drink from a bottle of wine preserved in a specially labeled wooden box. Merv had the distinct honor of carrying out this mandate at the 2006 NAD Conference in New Orleans, which was highlighted by his saying the wine was sour!

During his time in Washington, DC, Merv served as executive director of the Council of Organizations Serving the Deaf (1960-1967), working closely on educational policy, research and accessibility issues with Boyce R. Williams at the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare.

Merv was also involved with many national and international organizations dealing with education of the deaf. His involvement in the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is known to many, having served as a member of the WFD Board (1967-1971) and as an expert on pedagogy for a number of years – among several WFD roles. He was instrumental in encouraging deaf expert involvement in the WFD, and was an accomplished international traveler, giving presentations and meeting with deaf leaders worldwide.

At the NAD, Merv filled in as interim executive director (1989-1990) at the behest of the Board of Directors. He is perhaps one of very few persons who has attended every biennial NAD conference since 1957. Many viewed him as the “great thinker” – always coming up with ideas and strategies for accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks.

Merv later served as editor of the NAD Deaf American Monograph 1990 to 1996. An accomplished poet (Words from a Deaf Child) and prolific writer (Unwritten Curriculum), his works were loved by deaf and hearing people alike. In 2010, he published My Yesterdays: In a Changing World of the Deaf, an engrossing chronicle of his life.

“I am deeply saddened at the loss of Merv Garretson,” said NAD President Chris Wagner. “He was a true pioneer, paving the way for all who followed. We will be forever grateful for the service and commitment he gave so generously to the national and international deaf communities. I have had the pleasure of knowing Merv and Carol while they spent their remaining years in Florida, and I am proud to say Merv was one of my mentors.”

“Merv was not only my friend, but also my mentor and motivator,” said Gertrude S. “Gertie” Galloway, the 23rd president of the NAD and the first woman elected to this office. “He was the one who encouraged me to run for the presidency. I am forever grateful to him for his confidence in me. And I hope to carry on as NAD President Emeritus with grace and wisdom. I shall miss him greatly and his good-natured ‘Hi, Grandma!’ salutation. Rest in peace, Merv and Carol – we shall carry on!”

SOURCE:

 

http://www.nad.org/http:/%252Fwww.nad.org/news/2012/1/memoriam-merv-garretson

 

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