February 1, 1999 Vol. III, No. 9

Veteran Deafness Center Director Herb Larson Retires

University Soon to Appoint New Head of Nationally Renowned Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students

"Mentor" - the word was inescapable at a recent reception for Herb Larson, the retiring director of the much-lauded National Center on Deafness at Cal State Northridge.

Colleagues from across the country praised his leadership in providing services that make higher education a reality for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

"Herb has developed one of the best postsecondary programs" of its kind, "one that has been emulated all over the world for the access it provides," said Ramon Rodriguez, a project officer for the U.S. Department of Education.

"My total education about deaf and hard-of-hearing people and the possibility of their achievement in higher education has come from Herb and his colleagues at the center," acknowledged CSUN President Blenda J. Wilson. "Because the foundation Herb has built is so strong, the NCOD will continue to bring honor to the university."

Cal State Northridge has one of the country's largest university populations of deaf and hard-of-hearing students-about 250. In the 1960s, the campus also became among the first mainstream universities to accept deaf and hard-of-hearing students.Larson joined the center in 1979 and was named its director in 1990.

Among Larson's major accomplishments, said Gary Sanderson, NCOD outreach program coordinator, was preparing CSUN for loss of federal funds that until 1996 partially paid for note-taking, tutoring, counseling, real-time captioning and interpreting services for deaf students.

Then a shift in federal policy prohibited the use of the funds for such direct services. Larson's foresight and behind-the-scenes work, along with support from President Wilson, kept both services and NCOD staff intact during the transition to university-based funding, Sanderson said.

Under a five-year, $5-million federal grant, the NCOD also trains educators from colleges and institutions across the western United States how to help deaf students. The NCOD is one of four regional technical assistance centers in the nation. The directors of the other three (in Tennessee, Minnesota and New York) all lauded Larson at the reception.

Speakers also recalled Larson's reputation as "the Johnny Carson of the deaf community"-an allusion to his years as host of the local television talk show "Off Hand" on KCAL Channel 9. The show-which often featured hearing-impaired celebrities such as Nanette Fabray and Lou Ferrigno-is now off-the-air locally but in syndication elsewhere, Sanderson said.

Larson through the years also has won distinguished service awards from Gallaudet University, the National Association for the Deaf and other national organizations.

A new NCOD director will be named within two weeks, said Mary Ann Cummins Prager, assistant vice president of student affairs. -John Kroll

-John Kroll


February 1, 1999

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