In 1864, Congress passed a bill authorizing the institution, known as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, to establish the National College for the Deaf and Dumb which would provide college-level instruction and confer college degrees.
On April 8, 1864, United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law.
Edward Miner Gallaudet, superintendent of the Columbia Institution under founder Amos Kendall, was made president of the institution, including the college, after Kendall stepped down earlier that year. In that first year there were eight students enrolled and during the first commencement in June 1869, three young men received diplomas. Their diplomas were signed by President Ulysses S. Grant, and to this day, the diplomas of all Gallaudet graduates are signed by the presiding U.S. President.
As part of Gallaudet's 150th Anniversary in 2014, we hope to collect one original diploma for each year that Gallaudet conferred degrees. If you are interested, please send us your original diploma. Unfortunately we cannot accept scanned copies or commemorative versions. The originals of all the diplomas displayed here are housed in the Gallaudet Archives
To donate your diploma, contact Kaitlin Luna, Coordinator of Media and Public Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-651-5505. In addition to Gallaudet diplomas, the Archives welcomes gifts of photographs, documents and memorabilia related to Gallaudet University and to deaf people-their lives, organizations, schools and culture. Visit the Archives Donations page for more information or contact the Archives at email@example.com. All images, scans of diplomas, and images of Gallaudet alumni are courtesy of the University Archives unless otherwise indicated.
Ulysses S. Grant-1869-1877
Rutherford B. Hayes-1877-1881
James A. Garfield-March-September 1881
Chester A. Arthur-1881-1885
William Howard Taft-1909-1913
Warren G. Harding-1921-1923
Franklin D. Roosevelt-1933-1945
Harry S. Truman-1945-1953
Dwight D. Eisenhower-1953-1961
John F. Kennedy-1961-1963
Lyndon B. Johnson-1963-1969
Richard M. Nixon-1969-1974
James "Jimmy" Carter-1977-1981
George H. W. Bush-1989-1993
William "Bill" Clinton-1993-2001
George W. Bush-2001-2009