St. Mary’s School for the Deaf History

The 2017-2018 School year will be the 165th in which St. Mary’s School for the Deaf has been serving the Deaf Community in all eight counties of Western New York. We are proud of our rich and diverse history.

1853

  • On September 26, 1853, a Society to be known as the "LeCouteulx St. Mary's Benevolent Society for the Deaf and Dumb", was established to aid and instruct the Deaf.


1854

  • Louis LeCouteulx de Caumont, one of the trustees, presented to Bishop Timon a one-acre lot in the City of Buffalo, for purposes of establishing an institution for Deaf Education. The Bishop purchased three small frame buildings to be moved onto the lot. Four Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Louis, Missouri were relocated to the Diocese of Buffalo at the request of Bishop Timon.


1857

  • Four Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Louis came to Buffalo to teach the Deaf. Among the four teachers were Mother Agnes Spencer, Superior; and Sister Rose Geghan.


1859

  • Instruction for the Deaf began with "four girls and a few boys."


1861

  • Bishop Timon sent Sister Mary Anne Burke for specialized training to the Mt. Airy State Institute for the Deaf in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to become acquainted with the methods used to teach the Deaf. She brought back with her The Combined Method, using signs, fingerspelling, and speech.


1862

  • The Edward Street School for the Deaf was erected. Additions to this first building were made in 1866, 1871, 1876, 1878 and 1880. At this new School, there were eleven pupils.


1863

  • Mother Mary Anne Burke was appointed Principal of the School.


1873

  • Mother Mary Anne Burke obtained state aid for all pupils attending St. Mary's School for the Deaf over the age of twelve years. Younger pupils were provided for by the County.


1883

  • Present site for St. Mary's School for the Deaf, located at Main and Dewey in the City of Buffalo, was purchased. A frame building on the grounds became the BRANCH HOUSE, and thirty boys, all under the age of twelve, were transferred there.


1886

  • The School magazine, "The LeCouteulx Leader," was first published, and ended publication in 1949.


1898

  • The current location of St. Mary's School for the Deaf at 2253 Main Street, Buffalo, had its Main Building dedicated on December 8, 1898, by Bishop Quigley. In January 1899, all pupils (77 boys and 75 girls) were moved to this School from the Edward Street location.


1901

  • The Sixteenth Triennial Convention of the American Instructors of the Deaf was held in Buffalo at St. Mary's School for the Deaf on July 2-8. At that time, Dr. Edward Miner Gallaudet, also President of Gallaudet College, in Washington, D.C., presided over the convention.


1906

  • St. Mary's School for the Deaf Alumni Association was formally organized, and remains active through today.


1913

  • Bosco Hall Building and Trades Building were erected.


1914

  • The St. Mary's School for the Deaf Teachers' Preparation Program was established.


1927

  • Mother M. Constantia Driscoll was appointed Principal of the School.


1929

  • St. Mary's On-The-Lake, a summer home for Deaf, orphaned children was purchased.


1930

  • In August, the Third World Congress of Educators of the Deaf was held in Buffalo. Some 3,000 educators were present from all over the world. During this event, the National Association of the Deaf presented St. Mary's with a statue of Abbe de L'Epee (who had opened the first school for the deaf in Paris, France). This bronze monument is the work of Eugene A. Hannon, a deaf sculptor who began his study of art as a student at St. Mary's School for the Deaf. This statue remains to this day on Main Street in front of the School.


1932

  • St. Joseph's Primary Hall at the School was built as a Preschool (one of the first Preschools established to serve Deaf children in the nation), and for the Primary classes.


1936

  • The School name was legally changed to St. Mary's School for the Deaf. The Teacher Preparation Program, previously operated solely by the School to train its teachers, became affiliated with the State University of New York at Buffalo.


1944

  • St. Joseph's Boys' Camp was opened at Java Lake.


1952

  • St. Anthony Hall, for Intermediate classes, Ungraded Units, and a Professional Library, was built at St. Mary's School for the Deaf.


1954

  • Sr. Rose Gertrude Kirk was appointed Principal of the School.


1960

  • New building constructed that included an up-to-date gymnasium (Fr. Gallagher Gym), Senior Girls' recreation rooms and homemaking units.


1962-63

  • St. Joseph's College for the Deaf, located at 40 Agassiz Circle, Buffalo, opened with fifteen students as a division of Mount St. Joseph College (now known as Medaille College).


1963

  • With the conversion of the University at Buffalo from a private institution to a state affiliated university, the Teacher of the 
    Deaf Preparation Program determined it was in the best interests of the program to change its affiliation to Canisius College.


1965

  • Sister Nora Letourneau was appointed Superintendent of St Mary's School for the Deaf.


1972

  • Recognizing trends in Deaf Education and that traditional approaches had limited success with many students, the School converted its programs from a strictly oral approach to a Total Communication philosophy, which incorporated sign language and fingerspelling, as well as other communication strategies, into its overall educational program.


1976-89

  • The Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, established the Special School of the Future Project at Gallaudet University. St. Mary's School for the Deaf was selected as one of six schools throughout the United States to serve as a regional demonstration and outreach center. This program lasted, in various auspices, until 1989.


1978

  • The Reginald Taylor Family contributed $1,000,000 toward the construction of the Taylor Hall Diagnostic and Evaluation Center.


1983

  • St. Mary's Square Condominiums opened, built on the site of the former Edward Street location of the School. Originally, it was one of the earliest School buildings for St. Mary's School for the Deaf.


1986

  • The Sisters of St. Joseph, who operated the St. Joseph's School for Exceptional Children in Dunkirk, New York near Fredonia, decided to close that School and turned over ownership of the land and buildings to St. Mary's School for the Deaf.


1987

  • The School established the Northeast Cochlear Implant Center. Unfortunately, funding could not be found and the Center did not meet its original expectations and never became fully operational.


1988

  • The name "Northeast Communication Achievement Center" was adopted as the umbrella title under which St. Mary's School for the Deaf and the other centers (i.e. Cochlear Implant, Dunkirk, etc.) would operate. Again, the other centers could not be sustained through funding and programmatic efforts, and so the NCAC label was no longer used. Sister Nora Letourneau retired. The leadership of the School passed from the hands of the Sisters of St. Joseph to lay professionals with the hiring of the first Superintendent not from the religious community. Dr. George W. Severns was then appointed President of St. Mary's School for the Deaf.


1989

  • The office of the New York State Governor initiated a budget proposal to change funding for St. Mary's School for the Deaf, as well as other 4201 schools, from direct appropriation through the State Education Department to a reimbursement methodology. Through political action, this proposal was averted. Dr. Judith Kohl was appointed acting President of St. Mary's School for the Deaf, replacing Dr. Severns.


1990

  • Dr. David Updegraff was appointed President of St. Mary's School for the Deaf, replacing Dr. Kohl.


1991

  • The Letourneau Recreational Park was completed on St. Mary's School for the Deaf campus. This was in honor of Sister Nora Letourneau, the last member of the Sisters of St. Joseph to serve as Superintendent of the School.


1995

  • The proposed budget presented by the New York State Office of the Governor eliminated direct state appropriations for St. Mary's School for the Deaf and the other ten 4201 Schools throughout New York State. Under this proposal, the Schools were to be funded by tuition payments from local school districts which would have been reimbursed by the State Education Department. Costs to local school districts would have increased from approximately 13% of the per student cost at St. Mary's School for the Deaf, to approximately 40% of the educational costs, with 100% of the residential costs being charged to the Erie County Department of Social Services. Most school districts would have opted to offer their own programs, and St. Mary's would have either had to close or would have been significantly reduced in size. Through a very active campaign conducted by the 4201 Schools Association, our own staff and administration, and our Board of Trustees, the crisis was averted and the Legislature was mobilized to support the restoration of our funds.


1998

  • Inasmuch as there have been three significant efforts in recent years to eliminate or significantly reduce direct state appropriations to St. Mary's School for the Deaf and the other 4201 Schools, and in view of the changing needs of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Student population, the St. Mary's School for the Deaf Board of Trustees has initiated a Strategic Planning Process, Implementation Phase, to set new strategic directions for the School's future.


2001

  • Mr. Winfield McChord, Jr., is appointed President of St. Mary's School for the Deaf.


2003

  • Ms. Patricia Velocci is appointed Interim President, St. Mary's School for the Deaf, replacing Mr. McChord.


2003

  • Dr. William Page Johnson is appointed Superintendent of St. Mary's School for the Deaf, replacing Ms. Velocci.


2009

  • Mr. Timothy M. Kelly is appointed Superintendent of St. Mary's School for the Deaf, a position he holds today.


2010

  • St. Mary’s School for the Deaf opens its historical museum/archives rooms, with the goal of sharing its rich history in Deaf Education, as well as its role in WNY History and Architecture, with the larger Western New York Community.


2011

  • Budgetary cuts change the way that St. Mary’s School for the Deaf is funded. The money no longer is a direct appropriation from the State of New York, but rather, funds are funneled through the School Districts that St. Mary’s serves.

2012

  • St. Mary's School for the Deaf hosts its 1st Annual I-90 Classic Basketball Tournament between St. Mary's and the Rochester School for the Deaf, for Elementary and Secondary Boys and Girls Teams.
  • Abbe de L'Epee's 300th Birthday Celebration.
  • Opened new state-of-the-art Science Lab in the Main Building.
  • Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools & Programs for the Deaf, Inc. (CEASD) Accreditation Team Site Visit to St. Mary's School for the Deaf.
  • Rebirth of St. Mary's School for the Deaf's Foundation for Deaf Education.

2013

  • St. Mary's School for the Deaf receives Full Five Year Certificate Accreditation from CEASD.
  • St. Mary's hosts 50th Annual Eastern Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association (ESDAA) Boys Track & Field Tournament.
  • Mayoral Candidate Debate held at St. Mary's School for the Deaf.

2014

  • Opening of the Educational & Auditory Resources for Sound Program (EARS).
  • The Main Building Assembly Hall is dedicated to Sisters Loretta and Virginia Young and renamed the Young Assembly Hall.
  • Mary Stanley Garden dedicated to former SMSD Teacher of the Deaf.

 

2015

  • Aimee Bell appointed to Secondary Associate Principal
  • Joy Higgins appointed to Elementary Associate Principal
  • Scott Gentzke appointed to Assoicate Principal- Dean of Students & Director of Residential  Services.
  • SMSD students administer Oath of Office to local elected officials.

 

2016

  • Judy Kohl Tot Lot dedicated to former SMSD Teacher of the Deaf and Administrator.

 

2017

  • SMSD "Kids for K-9" Summer Campaign raised over $2,500 for NFTA dog vests and medical kits.
  • Superintendent Tim Kelly travels to Washington, DC with other 4201 Schools Superintendents for Federal Advocacy efforts.
  • St. Mary's hosts Eastern Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association (ESDAA) 8 v 8 Soccer Tournament.
  • 21st Century Library / Media Center created.

 

2018

  • SMSD Boys Basketball Team win the ESDAA Division II Tournament in Rhode Island.
  • St. Mary's School for the Deaf receives Five Year Certificate of Re-Accreditation from CEASD.
  • Senator Tim Kennedy introduces the Championship Boys Basketball Team on the Senate Floor in Albany.