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November 10, 2002

Handy with words

From: Chillicothe Gazette, OH
Nov. 10, 2002

OU-C deaf studies aids Veterans' Day event

Gazette Staff Writer

Fingers will be moving and feet will be tapping Tuesday as residents gather to celebrate Veterans Day at Ohio University-Chillicothe.

The Deaf Studies and Interpreting classes are putting on a musical program to honor all those who have served before us. Students from the beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes will present the program in sign language along with special guests from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Color Guard, Chillicothe High School band, and the Unioto bell choir.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for OU-C to be involved in something as important as Veterans Day and be able to work with the community," said Dean Rich Bebee.

The regional campus worked in conjunction with the Ross County Board of Commissioners to bring the patriotic tribute to Chillicothe.

"We were very pleased to be able to work with them," said commissioner Jim Caldwell. "The program honors our veterans and highlights some of the teachings of the deaf studies program, which is known all over the country."

Caldwell also expressed delight about the guest speaker who comes straight from the Pentagon -- Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Bryan G. Whitman.

"I think it's great that someone of that stature think it's important to speak at an event like this," Caldwell said.

Professor Janet Duvall teaches the Deaf Studies classes, which are anxiously awaiting their turn in the spotlight.

"They're nervous," she said. "They're starting to see how big it's getting."

Duvall starting working with the deaf in 1969. Her interest in Deaf Studies was sparked by an old neighbor who intrigued her as a little girl.

"There was this woman who lived across the street," Duvall recalled. "She was deaf. I would see her outside and I always wanted to communicate with her. She looked just like Mrs. Claus. I looked in the dictionary to see how to sign 'hi.' I got up enough nerve, went over, and I thought I was saying 'hi' but I was actually saying 'gi.' She started laughing."

Laughter characterized the start of a beautiful relationship -- Duvall's love of a language which requires no words.

The professor noted the importance of such a language.

"If we didn't have it, there would be 26 million people in the world who wouldn't be able to understand anything. A lot of people would be left out."

Duvall said anyone can learn. On the first day of class students learn 25 signs. And before they leave, Duvall said they can sign a complete sentence and successfully reverse-interpret, or translate, a classmate's sentence.

Duvall's love of teaching and motivation to organize a Veterans Day program is greatly appreciated, Dr. Bebee said.

"It demonstrates the energy and enthusiasm of one of our outstanding instructors," he said.

A special tribute will honor the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first African-American airmen who fought gallantly in World War II. The presentation, which will include footage from an actual Tuskegee unit, will be given by Dr. Charlene McGee-Smith, daughter of Col. McGee and author of a book honoring her father's unit. She will be personally signing her book, "Tuskegee Airmen," before and after the ceremony.

Other tributes will be paid to Korean War veterans, World War I and II veterans, Persian Gulf veterans, Vietnam POW Jeremiah Denton, and Camp Sherman.

Bebee invites all to attend as the program promises to provide a delightful performance.

"I'm looking forward to a fantastic evening," he said.

(Bunch can be reached at 772-9372 or via e-mail at

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