Deaf Educator and Poet Robert Panara Honored by USPS In Ceremony at NTID

April 12, 2017



Yesterday the U.S. Postal Service hosted a special ceremony to dedicate a stamp for Deaf educator, author, and performer Robert “Bob” Panara. It was hosted at the Panara Theatre on the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) campus. Panara passed away in 2014 at 94 years of age.


He is the 16th person to be on the USPS’ “Distinguished Americans Series.” Panara was a professor at both Gallaudet then moved to NTID (the first Deaf professor at NTID). He taught English literature, poetry, and theatre, infusing those topics with ASL. 


Dr. Gerard Buckley, President of the NTID, gave a speech. He asked people who used be students of Panara to stand up — and there were many. He said the spirit of Bob Panara would be there forever.


A representative from USPS came and said there are 3,000 PO workers who were Deaf or HoH.  He then asked people to come onstage to unveil a large photograph of the stamp. 


It was a picture of Panara signing, “respect” with blur on his hands to show motion. The stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler — based on a photograph taken by NTID photographer Mark Benjamin.


Panara’s son, John, who is also a NTID teacher, came onstage. He is a CODA — he said, “ILY” to the stamp. He said his dad was one of the nicest guys you could meet. He said Panara often said, “it’s not the ears, it’s what is between the ears that count.”


There were dance performances with poetry that was written by Panara. Dr. Harry Lang, author and retired RIT professor — and best friend of Panara — gave a speech. (He also wrote a book about Bob — titled “Teaching from the Heart and Soul.” Dr. Lang said Bob was a pioneer in ASL poetry. Dr. Lang said Bob inspired Bill Stokoe, the “Father of ASL” — to do research on ASL after Stokoe watched him teaching a class at Gallaudet.


The ceremony ended with a video tribute of Bob — one with him sitting with his late wife Shirley — and of him signing a poem on his deafness. 


You can watch the full video of the ceremony and buy the stamp at the links below. There will be another ceremony to honor Panara at Gallaudet University — on April 18. 


Full Video of Ceremony from RIT NTID YouTube:


Buy Stamps on the USPS Store:

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