William Willard

Founder of ISD

A native of Vermont, William Willard was enrolled at the “Hartford Asylum” as its 132nd pupil. Laurent Clerc, his teacher and mentor, instilled in him his dream of providing an education for all deaf people in the United States. Willard became a dedicated teacher in the Columbus, Ohio “Asylum,” where he first met his wife, Eliza Young. In 1843, Willard proposed to Indiana’s General Assembly that a new school for the deaf be established in the state. He traveled statewide on horseback, rounding up a dozen pupils, and the Willards soon opened their semi-private school in Indianapolis. Tuition was free; $1.50 per week was charged for boarding. When the General Assembly reconvened, they agreed to fund the new school—the nation’s sixth, but the first to provide free education. Willard’s legacy—Indiana School for the Deaf—still thrives.

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