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U.S. Postal Service honors Rochester man as Distinguished American

Dec 21, 2016

Credit U.S. Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service is honoring the first deaf faculty member at RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

An image of Robert Panara will appear on a postage stamp sometime in 2017 as part of the Postal Service's Distinguished Americans series.

Panara's son, John Panara, also an RIT/NTID faculty member, said his father inspired generations of students with his powerful use of American Sign Language to teach works of literature.

"People, when they would talk about my father using ASL in the classroom as he taught, they would say it was poetry in motion and that he had a rhetorical signing style that was breathtaking," he said.

Robert Panara served on the national advisory board that established NTID in 1965. He established NTID’s English department and founded the school’s Drama Club. Panara was also a founding member of the National Theatre of the Deaf.

John Panara said his father would have been thrilled about the honor of appearing on a stamp, and for the fact that the stamp gives recognition to deaf culture. 

"Definitely, I think of him first and foremost as a teacher and also as indicated on that stamp, a pioneer in deaf studies,” he said. “Before there was the term 'deaf awareness', he was promoting deaf awareness and deaf culture."

Robert Panara died in 2014 at the age of 94.

The stamp features an image of Panara signing the word "respect."  A ceremony will take place at RIT/NTID sometime in 2017 when the stamp’s formal date of issue is announced.