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July 6, 2006

Propp, advocate for deaf education, dies

From: Lincoln Journal Star - Lincoln,NE,USA - Jul 6, 2006

George Propp, a Lincoln man considered by many to be a pioneer in advocacy and education for the deaf and hard of hearing, died Monday from esophageal cancer at the age of 84.

BY HILARY KINDSCHUH | Lincoln Journal Star

Communication challenges were always a part of George Propp’s life.

Born in 1922 to German-Russian immigrants in Scottsbluff, Propp grew up speaking German at home and understanding what it meant to be part of a minority, said his daughter, Margie Propp.

But George Propp perhaps faced his greatest obstacle as a teenager, when he became deaf as a result of spinal meningitis.

“For him to go from this hearing culture to a deaf culture was his first real challenge,” Margie Propp said. “There were lots of frustrations and lots of times that he could have been held back — but he found ways to make himself heard.”

After becoming deaf at 15, Propp was sent to the Nebraska School for the Deaf in Omaha, where he immersed himself in the deaf culture, she said.

George Propp received master’s degrees from the University of Omaha in 1959 and California State University–Northridge in 1966 and his doctorate from the University of Nebraska in 1972.

“And that was back in the days when there weren’t support services for deaf students like there are now,” said John Bernthal, chairman of the department of special education and communication disorders at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Propp had a hand in improving education for the deaf and hard of hearing. After teaching and coaching for several years at the Nebraska School for the Deaf in Omaha, he came to UNL, where “he was among the vanguard of deaf educators,” said his son, Gregory Propp.

“His main project at the University was developing educational materials to teach the deaf.”

Apart from his role as an educator, Propp “was involved in almost every deaf organization in the country,” Bernthal said.

Norm Weverka, field representative with the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said Propp was “a foundation, a support mechanism for deaf people.”

Weverka, who was interviewed via video relay interpreting, said Propp “could easily be called a founding father for our organization here.”

Tanya Wendel, executive director of the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said Propp was part of a group that asked the Nebraska Legislature to form the commission, which was established in 1979.

“Many people are going to say he’s going to be sorely missed because not many individuals who were deaf were so involved and made such an impact on deaf education at a national and state level,” Wendel said. “It was quite an honor for Nebraska to have him.”

Reach Hilary Kindschuh at 473-7120 or

Funeral services for George Propp will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Heritage Presbyterian Church, 880 S. 35th St. A private burial will follow at Lincoln Memorial Park. Visitation will be held from 6-8 p.m. Friday at the Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home, 6800 S. 14th St.

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