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President Valerie Smith's Charge to Carol Padden

Carol Padden

Your program summarizes Carol Padden’s remarkable credentials, including her status as the world’s top scholar in the analysis of sign languages. Carol has also been a close friend and strong supporter of the College ever since her association with Swarthmore began more than two decades ago.

The story of this association begins in 1993. Swarthmore student Shannon Allen decided to focus her senior thesis on early literacy issues confronting deaf children. Her advisor was Swarthmore professor Donna Jo Napoli, who introduced Shannon to Carol Padden. Through frequent emails, Carol guided both Shannon and Professor Napoli through the project.

After Shannon completed her M.A. in linguistics, Carol took her into her laboratory as a research assistant for a full year. Ever since, Carol has regularly advised Donna Jo and our Linguistics Department on courses and events related to deaf issues. Carol spoke at our “Signs and Voices” conference in 2004 and at our “Deaf Around the World” conference in 2008. In the summer of 2014, she again served as a mentor to a rising senior at Swarthmore.

Carol’s research has focused on sign language structure, the development of writing systems in young children, and the interaction between language and cultural systems. She has taught courses to hearing students—both undergraduate and graduate—on topics ranging from language and globalization to socio-cultural theory. Her honors and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award. In 2010, she received a MacArthur “genius” grant.

This morning I am delighted to officially offer Carol a Swarthmore College degree. Now we can call her an alum!

Carol Padden, upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.