Entrepreneur and leader
Ben Soukup, Jr. has long been one of the most active and visible leaders in the Deaf community. He's held an impressive variety of leadership positions in the Deaf community, including the presidency of the NAD (1993-98), but is best known as founder, president, and CEO of Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. (CSD), headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
His success story is uniquely American. He's from a Deaf family who ran a farm in Wagner, SD. After their crops were destroyed by a storm, his parents applied for a bank loan so they could continue farming. They were turned down because they were deaf. As a result, they were compelled to auction off the farm and all their equipment, and moved to Sioux Falls. Two years later, young Ben's father was dead. It was a devastating experience, and the lesson of injustice wasn't lost on him.
Soukup attended South Dakota School for the Deaf, Gallaudet College, and Augustana College, University of Northern Colorado, and Cornell, earning several degrees. He also received an honorary doctorate from Gallaudet University in 2000.
He founded CSD in 1975 as a pioneering Deaf-run nonprofit interpreter-referral agency. Its first office was a closet at SDSD. CSD, which has headquarters in Sioux Falls and several branches in other cities, is now a major player in the Deaf community—telecommunications, TRS and VRS, interpreting services, technology, media, and affiliate ventures such as Camp Lakodia. CSD remains the largest Deaf-run agency of its kind.
Soukup was appointed to Gallaudet's Board of Trustees in 2001. He was on campus during the "Unity" protests of 2006. On "Black Friday," October 13, 2006, when some 133 protesters were arrested at the blockaded Sixth Street gate, he was evidently the only Board member who was actually there with them.
He and his family live in Sioux Falls.
His appointment and Board Chair comes at a time of great changes and reorganization in the Gallaudet community. He looks forward to dealing with the issues, staying in contact with all segments of the community, and providing leadership. We wish him the best.