Robert Panara (1920-2014), an influential teacher and a pioneer in the field of deaf studies, will be honored with a new stamp formally issued April 11. It is a nondenominated two-ounce forever stamp with a current value of 70 cents.
A first-day ceremony will start at 10 a.m. in the Robert F. Panara Theatre at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, where Panara taught for 20 years. The institute is part of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.
The 16th stamp in the Distinguished Americans series features a 2009 photograph of Panara shown signing the word “respect.” During his 40-year teaching career, Panara inspired generations of students with his powerful use of American Sign Language. Panara taught at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. for nearly 20 years and at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf another 20.
During his teaching career, Panara, a Bronx native, inspired generations of students, and his powerful use of American Sign Language to convey Shakespeare and other works of literature, made him much beloved and respected by students and colleagues alike.
Panara, who passed away in July 2014 at the age of 94, was an avid poet, and lover of Shakespeare and theater, according to the institute’s website. Panara’s poem “On His Deafness,” written in 1946, has been reprinted many times and won first prize in the World of Poetry contest in 1988. A biography of Panara states that the poem is about “how deaf people can ‘hear’ with an ‘inner ear’ of imagination.”
Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with an existing photograph by Mark Benjamin, official photographer of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.