Jerome D. Schein (died Apri 16, 2010)

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In Memoriam appeared in The Hearing Review, April 2010.

Jerome Daniel Schein, born May 27, 1923, Professor Emeritus, New York University. Former professor at Gallaudet University, adjunct professor University of Alberta (Canada) passed away at his home in Coconut Creek, Fla, on April 16, 2010.

Dr. Jerome D. Schein was an international authority on deafness/deafness studies. He was the only person to have held both of the only two endowed chairs of deafness research in the world – the P.V. Doctor Chair at Gallaudet University and the David Peikoff Chair at the University of Alberta (Canada).

He published 25 books and more than 200 referreed papers on sensory disorders and has received numerous honors and awards. His most recent book, Hearing Disorders Handbook, with Maurice H. Miller was published in 2008.

His first experience with deafness and persons who are Deaf began in 1960 when he joined the faculty at Gallaudet College, (now University) as a professor of psychology and director of the Office of Psychological Research. While at GU he was also the editor of dsh Abstracts (1961 to 1965) as well as holding various offices in the District of Columbia Psychological Association, including the presidency. He was elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 1976 .

In order to teach at Gallaudet it was necessary to be a proficient user of American Sign Language. Dr. Schein was fortunate to be given a variety of intensive, informal sessions with deaf staff who introduced him to ASL, which he learned quickly and felt at home with. He always felt close to the Deaf Community because of the way he was introduced to it. He went on to write several books and dictionaries concerning sign language as well as chairing doctoral committees on the subject. Fred Schrieber, who was the executive director of the National Association of the Deaf, laughingly called Jerome’s communication “Scheinese.” Royalties from a biography he wrote about Fred Schrieber, A Rose for Tomorrow, support NAD activities for the welfare of deaf people as well as an annual award to individuals who served the deaf in volunteer capacities. He himself was a recipient of the Golden Rose award in 2002.

In 1968, he accepted the position of dean of education and home economics at the University of Cincinnati. While there he wrote The Deaf Community: Studies in the Social Psychology of Deafness.

From 1970 to 1986 he was professor of sensory rehabilitation at New York University, then emeritus professor. At NYU, he was the director of the Deafness Research and Training Center. He also served as president of the New York Society for the Deaf and wrote many papers and books, including the landmark Deaf Population of the United States, with Marcus Delk, A Complete Guide to Communication with Deafblind Persons with Linda Kates, and edited The Deaf Jew in the Modern World, with Lester J. Waldman. He directed many projects including Communication Abilities for Deafblind Students, resulting in a curriculum for Deafblind students, AIM: Assessment Intervention Matrix written with Enid Wolf-Schein. AIM was made available in 2009 as a CD-ROM format keeping up with the times.

In the 1970’s he was told that the only interpreter in Puerto Rico had died and there was no one else to take his place. Immediately, he designed a program to train the first professional interpreters in Puerto Rico. One of his favorite experiences was speaking at a Deaf club in San Juan where he spoke English and signed ASL, which was then translated into Puerto Rican sign language.

Because of his personal experience at Gallaudet University Dr. Schein introduced a long running series of intensive sign language classes for not only students but anyone interested in learning ASL. Most of these courses were taught by prominent deaf people such as Martin Sternberg and Mary Beth Miller. He also initiated the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf both to improve the quality of interpreting and to make more interpreting services available.

When he retired from NYU he accepted the P.V. Doctor Chair of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet where he wrote a popular book about the deaf community called At Home Among Strangers.

From 1989 to 1993 he held the David Peikoff Chair of Deafness Studies at the University of Alberta where he also was chairman of the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disability. He also did a study of Deaf persons in Canada for Statistics Canada and held an International Conference on Postsecondary Education for the Deaf. He edited a Proceedings of the Conference.

Dr. Schein was a frequent co-contributor to HR, which published an article he authored, in the April issue.

Dr. Schein’s most recent books were:
Language in Motion (with D. A. Stewart)
Sign Language Interpreting (with D.A. Stewart & B.E. Cartwright)
Hearing Disorders Handbook (with M. H. Miller)

He was elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 1976. Among his other awards are:

World Federation of the Deaf, Decoration, 1972
Professional Rehabilitation with Adult Deaf, Williams Award, 1982
Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH), Citation, 1986
Empire State Association of the Deaf, Citation, 1986
Alberta Premier’s Council, Citation, 1990
US Department of Veterans Administration, Citation, 1999
The NAD awarded him the “Knight of the Flying Fingers”

Many of his students went on to doctoral degrees and positions in universities, schools for the deaf, and government.

Dr. Schein loved conversing in sign with Deaf people around the world. Although he was quick to say that there is no universal sign language, he had the ability to pick up on subtle nuances and communicate with persons who used any sign language. Once in Mexico he saw kids playing soccer and he stopped to talk to them. Pretty soon both teams surrounded him, fascinated that an American could communicate with them.

While at New York University he did the first national study of the Deaf population of the United States and the first national study of the Deafblind population of the United States. Among many meetings he sponsored was one on The Deaf Jew in the Modern World that also became a book. One of the situations discussed was the way in which deaf persons had been treated unequally in history, including not being able to be part of a minyan (10 Jewish males necessary to hold religious services) or being able to inherit wealth.

Dr. Schein was a great champion of Deaf persons. He did research showing that Deaf persons actually had better driving records than hearing people.

One of his great personal satisfactions was giving a lecture in Belgium on the importance of deaf children learning to communicate manually. Up to that time most deaf children in Belgium received oral education. Following this lecture, the Kasterlinden School for the Deaf implemented a sign program for students. He was invited to the ribbon cutting and a few years later to visit the classes. Students presented him with a card with drawings of each of them. They plied him with questions about signing. He was also honored at the 10th anniversary of that program.

He is survived by his wife Enid Gordon Wolf-Schein, daughters Carole Owens and Raleigh Schein, stepsons Marcus Wolf and Laurence Wolf, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

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