Deaf Person of the Month
Executive Director, American School for the Deaf
Everyone knows the Bravin family. If not personally, then at least knows about them. They're a classic example of a strong-Deaf, multigenerationally-Deaf family. They've long been involved in Deaf Community affairs, even making history, as Philip Bravin did in March 1988 during the "Deaf President Now!" movement. Phil and July Bravin and their three children—Deb Skjeveland, Seth, and Jeffrey—have all been active in the community.
On May 21, 2014, Jeff Bravin was appointed Executive Director (superintendent) of the American School for the Deaf, becoming the second Deaf director its 198-year history, Harvey Jay Corson being the first. Bravin had been at ASD since 2003.
He achieved a measure of fame (and many fans) in the 1970 TV-movie And Your Name is Jonah, putting in an unforgettable performance as a languageless deaf boy who is released by the institution for mentally-handicapped children where he has been mistakenly committed, but whose family is torn apart in frustration. Jonah's mother, Jenny (Sally Struthers) enrolls him in an oral school, where he makes no progress. Having reached the end of his patience, his father, Danny (James Woods), deserts his family, although he sends Jenny what money he can spare. Unable to communicate or understand the workings of the world, Jonah nearly gets himself killed. Struthers and Woods put in fine performances, too.
It was a groundbreaker, the first time that multiple deaf characters were played by Deaf actors. Bernard Bragg, who had a pivotal role, served as sign coach. Barbara Bernstein and Billy Seago both had choice roles. Gregg Brooks played a bartender. There was even a scene set in a Deaf club, where Jenny and her friend are surrounded by wall-to-wall ASL. Despite changes in"hearing technology" that have occurred since 1979, the movie is still valid and powerfully moving.
Jeff Bravin made friends with the cast and crew and taught them ASL. Of his subsequent acting career, he had roles in several off-Broadway productions. He appeared in PBS's much-missed Rainbow's End and 3-2-1 Contact. Performing in several plays at New York Deaf Theatre, he served as a board member for NYDT and NTD. "I still attend many Broadway and off-Broadway interpreted performances as time allows."
He recognizes the need for ASL to be part of early intervention, to give deaf babies a language-rich environment. "As Executive Director, my goal will be to work with every family in Connecticut and beyond in the area of early intervention.
"I look forward to bringing ASD to new horizons . . . to work with our students and their families, our faculty and staff and the community to implement bilingual education at ASD." ASD is coping with the influx of children with cochlear implants. "We work every day to educate them.
"I am thankful for my family, friends, colleagues, and everyone who helped me on my journey, and I look forward to giving back to the Deaf Community by working to restore the Mother School to its former glory."