Douglas J. N. Burke

Founder of SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf

Once Douglas Burke realized that he had a gift for organization and administration, he embarked on a distinguished career, acquiring advanced degrees, and establishing programs. He founded the Dramatics Guild of the D.C. Club of the Deaf (the Frederick H. Hughes Memorial Theatre of the Deaf), which produced his plays—the first original Deaf-written plays on record. He also established NAD’s National Cultural Program, fine and performing-arts competitions. The program was ultimately dropped, but one lasting contribution was the launching of the perennially-popular Miss Deaf America Pageant. Burke also advocated for the founding of the National Theatre of the Deaf. His greatest achievement, as he saw it, was the founding of SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, to serve students who weren’t considered “Big Three” material. SWCID was formally established in 1980. Burke was the first deaf person to found a college for the deaf.

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