PSAD celebrates 120th anniversary

Originally appeared in Silent News, August 2001.

It seemed only fitting that the 115th annual Pennsylvania Society for the Advancement of the Deaf (PSAD) convention was held in a charming hotel in a cozy town in the middle of the mountains. PSAD is the oldest association for the deaf in the country, and celebrated its 120th anniversary at the convention in Williamsport, Pa., the weekend of July 19.

With 371 people in attendance, there were a variety of workshops and exhibits for participants centered on the conference theme of “Going Towards the Light of the Future.”

On Wednesday, a job fair was held for prospective employees, along with a PSAD board meeting. Thursday brought a rich mix of workshops, including HIV/AIDS awareness, the establishment of deaf group homes, 401k planning, and many more. The afternoon had a feature speaker, Dr. Marilyn Daniels, an author who has made ripples with her theory that hearing babies should sign.

An interesting component of the PSAD conference was the schedule specifically geared towards deaf women. The Deaf Women Section had workshops geared towards women that included domestic violence, stress dangers, and golden years of senior citizens. A luncheon was also held with a keynote speaker and elections.

Thursday evening brought a special showing of Sound and Fury, a documentary that follows a New York family’s controversial decision to get a cochlear implant. National Association of the Deaf (NAD) President and Pennsylvanian Libby Pollard was in attendance, seeing the movie for the first time. After the showing, PSAD President Steve Florio held a public president’s reception in the lobby of the movie theater and opened the floor up to remarks.

Friday brought more diverse workshops, including health awareness and police awareness workshops. The American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA) had a series of workshops, such as Carl Schroeder’s “Power of ASL” and ASLTA President Leslie Greer’s training for ASL teachers. Cliff Rowley talked about AOL and its features, Frank Bowe discussed technology and education, and senior citizens luncheon/workshops were held.

Friday night provided what was the most exciting part for may attendees, the Miss Deaf Pennsylvania pageant. With three contestants providing a colorful show thanks to production director Karen Mrdjenovich, the judges had a difficult time in making their selection. Ultimately, Tracey Tasselli of Ducnasville won in every category and will go on to represent Pennsylvania at the NAD Convention in 2002. After the dazzling production, some people went back to the ballroom at the Genetti hotel, while others chose to rest up after a long day.

Saturday was devoted to the PSAD general meeting, where many resolutions were passed. Saturday night, capping off the entire weekend, brought the banquet and various awards. Deaf disc jockey Alex Simmons of Maryland again provided musical entertainment as he did the previous night, and clowns entertained the crowd.

Conference chairperson Lisa Purnell Noll said, “One of the comments from one of the attendees… indicated that she usually leaves early prior to the banquet on Sat. night. She shared that she had a blast the whole week, in that she stayed to the end on Sunday morning. It was the highest compliment ever paid by one of the attendees.”

The light of the future is indeed bright for PSAD as they gear up for another 120 years.

To learn about PSAD, visit

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