New Diagnosis? Clarke Can Help!

Latest News

September 5, 2017

Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech to Hold Multiple 150th Anniversary Celebrations beginning on September 30

September 5, 2017—Founded in downtown Northampton in 1867, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech will begin its 150th Anniversary celebrations on September 30 at 10:00 am with a re-dedication of the commemorative stone on Gothic Street that marks the school’s original location.

Alumni of the former residential program on Round Hill Road will lead the celebration, joined by current staff, board members, students and young alumni of the current Clarke Northampton campus. They will gather at the stone at 64 Gothic St.; the inscribed boulder was placed in 1967 by alumni honoring the 100th anniversary.

Clarke children hold 150th anniversary banner

The day’s events—and celebrations at Clarke campuses up and down the East Coast in coming months—will underscore the fact that Clarke has a rich history in serving children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families by teaching them to listen and talk. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

Christine Skwersky, chair of the Clarke Schools Alumni Council (CSAC) and a 1987 alumna, will serve as master of ceremonies, and the Rev. Peter Ives, a former and longtime minister of First Churches—which served as the place of worship for many Clarke alumni over the years—will offer the invocation and benediction.

Mayor David Narkewicz will speak about Clarke’s history and presence in Northampton; George Balsley of the class of 1965 and Rodney Kunath, a 1958 alum, both CSAC members, will speak about their Clarke experiences; and Emma O’Neill-Dietel, a Clarke Philadelphia alumna who is now a freshman at Smith College, will speak about how Clarke changed the trajectory of her educational experience.

Claire Troiano and Marian Hartblay will talk about the Clarke they remember as young teachers and the Clarke Schools of today; Troiano is the director of Mainstream Services and the educational administrator of the K-8 Program, co-located at Leeds Elementary and Clarke Northampton, and Hartblay is the director of Early Childhood Services at Clarke Northampton.

Interim CEO Doug Scott will speak about Clarke’s future goals.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, an Open House will also be held at Clarke Northampton, 45 Round Hill Road later this fall. Community members, and anyone with a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, are welcome to attend to observe and better understand Clarke’s listening and spoken language education.

A second, local anniversary celebration will also take place on Thursday, October 12 at Union Station.

Throughout 2017, Clarke will host additional events in the four other cities in which it provides services: Boston; New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Jacksonville, Florida.

Thanks to a $50,000 bequest from John Clarke, a wealthy Northampton businessman who lost his hearing in his later years, Clarke School for the Deaf was founded in 1867 in Northampton, offering residential educational services for children who were deaf or hard of hearing.

When Clarke’s residential program was flourishing, students often did not enter the mainstream, learning or working alongside peers with typical hearing, until they were teenagers. Today, with the advent of technology such as cochlear implants, most students enter the mainstream by age 6. For this reason, 20 years ago, Clarke transitioned away from running one residential campus here to operating five campuses along the East Coast that together serve more than 1,200 children and their families.

Clarke has campuses in Northampton and Boston; New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Jacksonville and a preschool program in Orlando, Florida. Clarke serves children from birth to age 18 who use hearing technology—including cochlear implants or hearing aids—to maximize their access to sound; they receive individualized support from Clarke’s teachers and therapists.

Among its wide range of programs, Clarke offers early intervention services for children from birth to 3, preschool classes, and a team of itinerant teachers of the deaf who serve students in mainstream school settings from preschool through high school. In recent years, Clarke has also developed a virtual learning program through which it uses technology to reach children and families globally.

“I don’t think Clarke would still exist if it had tried to hang on to what it used to be,” said Ward Caswell, president of the Beveridge Family Foundation, Inc., which has supported Clarke for roughly 50 years. “The transition has been marvelous. It’s rare that you see such a high level of success in dealing with change.”

Clarke Northampton, led by Hartblay and Troiano, offers early intervention services, an integrated preschool and a team of mainstream teachers of the deaf. Clarke also operates the Clarke Hearing Center, led by Laurie Smith. Clarke’s Mainstream Services Department originated in 1977 and celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Clarke, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is currently funded by foundations such as Beveridge, which supports its model for listening and spoken language, as well as private organizations, businesses and individuals.

While Clarke today is serving nearly 300 children from birth to age three, it has identified that there are roughly 60,000 families with children in that age group who will need services by the year 2020, giving Clarke strong motivation to continue to expand its mission so that it can reach and teach more children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

As part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations, Clarke has established an 1867 Society, for those who make gifts of $1,000 or more, and it is actively raising funds with the hope of serving more families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing—in this region and across the globe.

“We have to be very nimble and figure out how to provide services to more families,” said Bruce A. Rosenfield, JD, executive director and one of three trustees of the Oberkotter Foundation, which also is a lead supporter of Clarke. “Clarke is uniquely poised to do this.”

In recent years, Clarke has implemented new, innovative teaching tools, such as Project LENA, a technological coaching tool for parents, and the fun and educational Listening Walks at the Zoo, held in both Philadelphia and in the Boston area and expanding to New York City in the spring of 2018.

Combined with the listening and spoken language tools Clarke has employed for many years, it is introducing sound to babies born into an otherwise silent world and inspiring young people who excel academically and grow into playwrights, actors, physicians and audiologists.

Upcoming anniversary events will also be held: October 26 in Dedham; November 6 in New York City; November 8 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and December 9 in Jacksonville, Florida.

For more information on the anniversary events, or to donate to Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech or join its 1867 Society, contact Lillian Rountree, chief development officer, at or 973.453.5635.