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History

Since 1867 Clarke has provided children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the education needed to succeed in a hearing world.

Clarke’s long legacy has included the support of many American dignitaries, and most importantly, has brought listening and speaking tools to thousands of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

A Rich History

Boston-based lawyer and financier Gardiner Greene Hubbard grew interested in the field of deaf education when his five-year-old daughter, Mabel, became deaf as a result of scarlet fever. Firmly believing his daughter could speak and learn just like other children, Gardiner hired a teacher to work with Mabel on her speech and language. At age 10, Mabel did as well in the classroom as any of her peers with typical hearing.

Watching his daughter learn and grow, Gardiner became a dedicated advocate of education for children who were deaf or hard of hearing. Together with philanthropist John Clarke—who donated $50,000 to open a school for children with hearing loss—Gardiner founded Clarke School for the Deaf in 1867 in Northampton, Massachusetts, offering residential educational services for children who were deaf or hard of hearing.

Since its founding, Clarke has benefited from the support and innovation of numerous public figures, including the inventor Alexander (Alec) Graham Bell. Alec taught at Clarke for the first time in 1871, and would be associated with us for 51 more years—even serving as Clarke’s board president from 1917 to 1922.

And after becoming a student of Alec’s when she was 16, Mabel Hubbard and her teacher eventually married. The two raised four children; and Alec and Mabel’s father went on to start several world-famous organizations together, including the Bell Telephone Company and the National Geographic Society.

Clarke: Then and Now

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, early intervention and a high-quality Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) education, many students enter the mainstream by preschool.

For this reason, in the 1990s, Clarke transitioned away from running one residential campus in Northampton, to operating five sites along the East Coast.

Today, Clarke brings its listening and spoken language expertise to families across the country and around the world through teleservices.

Clarke serves more than 1,000 children and their families annually.

Historical Timeline

1871 - Alexander Graham Bell begins teaching at Clarke.

Alexander Graham Bell, scientist and inventor of the telephone, as a young man.

Alexander Graham Bell

1871

1902 - Future first lady Grace (Goodhue) Coolidge trained and taught at Clarke School.

While living in Gawith Hall, she met future husband and President Calvin Coolidge, who stayed at Adams house while practicing law in Northampton. Here are the Coolidges in 1923.

1902

1917 - 1922 Alexander Graham Bell serves as Clarke Board President.

Alexander Graham Bell, teacher and Board Member at Clarke, was associated with the organization for more than 50 years.

1917

1961 - President John F. Kennedy signs into a law a bill establishing support for training teachers of the deaf.

A friend to Clarke, Senator John F. Kennedy visited Clarke in 1955, when he was elected to Clarke's National Committee of Sponsors, and again in 1958, to assist in the dedication of a new dormitory building. Here he is visiting a classroom in 1955.

JFK with children

1961

1978 - Clarke's Comprehensive Educational Evaluations (CEE) Program opens.

Former CEE Coordinator Joanne O'Connell with student in 1993.

1978

1983 - First Clarke Summer Camp kicks off.

Clarke campers on a field trip in 1987.

1983

1995 - Clarke opens its first Boston-area location.

Clarke staff posing together in 1995.

Clarke Boston 1995

1996 - Clarke Florida opens.

Former Director Susan Allen with student in 1996.

Susan Allen. Former Director

Clarke Florida 1996

1999 - Clarke New York opens.

Clarke New York teacher with student around 2000.

Clarke New York teacher with student

Clarke New York 1999

2001 - Clarke opens its first location in Pennsylvania.

Clarke opened its first Pennsylvania location in Bryn Mawr in September 2001.

Clarke Pennsylvania Sign

Clarke Philadelphia 2001

2011 - Clarke’s residential program closes to better meet the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing—at younger ages and in mainstream schools.

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A), Clarke itinerant teacher of the deaf with student in his mainstream school.

Clarke Northampton 2011

2012 - Clarke launches tVISIT Program.

Marian Hartblay (MAT, MED, LSLS Cert. AVEd), director of early childhood services at Clarke Northampton conducting a tVISIT session.

Marian Hartblay with tVISIT Family

tVISIT Program 2012

2017 - Clarke’s 150th Anniversary.

A brief history of Clarke's 150-year legacy teaching children who are deaf or hard of hearing to listen and speak.

Clarke 150th Celebration

2017

2020 - Clarke provides nearly uninterrupted services during COVID-19 pandemic.

During the early days of the pandemic, Clarke offered close to 100% virtual services to more than 250 infants and toddlers, more than 250 preschoolers and close to 500 mainstream students.

Clarke Boston Virtual Class

Clarke Teleservices 2020

Recent Clarke News

Our Stories

Leighton - Clarke Schools Stories

Leighton

Like most caregivers who discover their child was born with a hearing loss, Nina and Spencer worried at first how...

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John

John was diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at birth during his newborn hearing screening. In 2017, John’s parents enrolled him in Clarke Birth to Age...

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Dexter

Dexter has a single-sided profound hearing loss and wears a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) to help access sound. He started attending Clarke New York’s...

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Our professionals are here to help.

Please contact any of our locations to learn more about Clarke’s broad array of programs and services.