Distinguished Americans series: Robert Panara

Throughout his life Robert Panara  (1920-2014) served the deaf community with intelligence, creativity and modeled overcoming hearing loss. He was a teacher and pioneer of Deaf Studies.

The 16th issue in the United States Postal Service Distinguished Americans series issued April 11, 2017, honors Panara, as he signs the word "Respect."

Panara wasn't born deaf. At 10, spinal meningitis left him changed. Resources for the deaf in the 1930s were few. After completing high school, Panara learned American Sign Language. The second world war was ending the year he graduated from Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) in Washington, D.C. After earning a masters from New York University in 1948, Panara taught at Gallaudet for nearly 20 years before beginning his career at National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) where he developed programs and taught, helping deaf students thrive on a hearing campus.

Panara is best known for his passion for literature and drama. He translated Shakespeare plays and other literature into American Sign Language and used creative interpretation techniques. He helped found the National Theatre of the Deaf. In the following film clip, Panara uses creative interpretation to sign literature and poetry, including his own.

Great Deaf Americans, written by Panara and published in 1985, celebrated the accomplishments of many who have overcome hearing loss. The same year Galludet University awarded Panara an honorary doctorate for his contributions to the university and the deaf community.

The 2017 two-ounce rate stamp issue that honors Panara coincides with the 200th anniversary of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT, where formal education for deaf students in America began.

Other deaf subjects on world-wide stamps include Ludwig von Beethoven, Thomas Alva Edison, Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky, Juliette Gordon Low, Francisco de Goya and Helen Adams Keller.

Note: For the 2017 stamp, Art Director Ethel Kessler used a 2009 photograph, taken by Mark Benjamin, official photographer of the NTID.

For more information on Robert Panara:

USPS Stamp Description


How About You?

If the USPS featured you or someone you love on a stamp, who would it be or what would it say? Please leave a comment.


  1. My Grandfather. He was deaf, too, I believe. Stargazer, and Moon Blazer.

    1. Thank you for sharing. Stargazer, Moon Blazer -- what great words. He sounds like a science guy. I hope you have a wonderful Easter week end.


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