Our History

Since 1867, Clarke has Been a Leader in the Field of Deaf Education

A Brief History of Clarke

Mabel Hubbard at 12 years old

Mabel Gardiner Hubbard in 1869, at 12 years old.

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, Hubbard hired a teacher to work with Mabel on her speech and language. At age ten, Mabel did as well in the classroom as any of her hearing peers.

Watching his daughter learn and grow, Hubbard 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—they 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 Graham Bell. Bell taught at Clarke for the first time in 1871, and would be associated with us for 51 more years—as a teacher of teachers, a researcher and a scholar. Bell even served as Clarke’s board president from 1917 to 1922.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy JFK visits Clarke School
Senator John F. Kennedy visiting Clarke in 1955, the year he was elected to the Clarke National Committee of Sponsors. Among those who have supported us over the years are also President Calvin and First Lady Grace Coolidge; and Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell.

And after becoming a student of Bell’s when she was 16, Mabel Hubbard and her teacher eventually married. The two raised four children; and Bell 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 such as cochlear implants, most students enter the mainstream by age six. For this reason, in the 1990s, Clarke transitioned away from running one residential campus in Northampton, to operating five campuses along the East Coast that together serve more than 1,200 children and their families.

Clarke currently has campuses in Northampton and Boston, Massachusetts; New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as a preschool program in Orlando, Florida. We serve children from birth to age 18 who use hearing technology—including cochlear implants or hearing aids—to maximize their access to sound. Clarke students receive individualized support from our teachers and therapists.

Alexander Graham Bell as young man
Alexander Graham Bell as a young man. He was associated with Clarke for more than 50 years.

Among our wide range of programs, we also offer early intervention services for children from birth to three, 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 implemented new, innovative teaching tools, such as tVISIT (virtual learning for children and families via videoconferencing); Project LENA (a technological coaching tool for parents); and the fun and educational Listening Walks at the Zoo, held in Philadelphia, New York City and the Boston area.

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

In 2017-2018, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech celebrated its 150th anniversary providing children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the highest quality therapy and education available to prepare them for success in a hearing world. To see photos and learn more about Clarke's legacy, watch this video.

The Growing Need for Our Services

Clarke children hold 150th anniversary banner
Preschoolers at Clarke Northampton celebrate Clarke's 150th birthday.

And while Clarke today is serving nearly 300 children from birth to age three, we have 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 our mission so that we can reach and teach more children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

As part of the 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017-2018, Clarke established an 1867 Society, for those who make gifts of $1,000 or more, and we are 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.

To donate to Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, or to join the 1867 Society, please contact Cindy Goldberg, Chief Development Officer, at cgoldberg@clarkeschools.org or 413.587.7350.