March 13-15, 2016 • San Diego, CA


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Marilyn Sass-Lehrer

Marylyn Sass-Lehrer, affectionately known as 'MSL', is a national pioneer, mover/shaker, researcher, collaborator, presenter, writer, and educator of professional competencies. She has served families with Deaf infants and young children for almost half a century. She has made significant contributions to this field and countless lives have been improved because of her work. For this recognition, MSL's colleagues and friends are nominating her for the 2016 Antonia Brancia Maxon Award for EHDI Excellence.

MSL is a true believer of collaboration amongst professionals; she has brought together many professionals from a variety of disciplines to contribute to the early education of infants and young children and to support positive family outcomes. MSL is the editor of the recently published book, Early Intervention for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers and their Families: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (published by Oxford University Press, 2016). For this endeavor, MSL drew upon her strong professional belief in collaboration, as well as her many personal strengths, including her ability to foster, motivate, encourage, and model leadership in the professionals who are fortunate enough to work with her. In the book MSL wrote, "My formal education represents many years of study, but it pales in comparison to the education I received from the people with whom I have worked throughout the years." Importantly, in her efforts to build collaboration, MSL shows deep respect toward and appreciation of partnerships with Deaf professionals.

MSL's understanding of what it meant to be Deaf deepened when she arrived at Gallaudet University in 1977. Because of her understanding of boundaries and respect for this unique cultural and linguistic group, she embraced the Deaf Community and American Sign Language (ASL). MSL also demonstrated respect and has consistently worked as an ally. Through her involvement, she gained deeper insights into the life experiences of Deaf people, resulting in a passion to ensure collaborations amongst professionals who are both deaf and hearing. MSL and her Deaf colleague and good friend, Dr. Beth Benedict, published a paper in 2007 entitled, Deaf Hearing Partnerships: Ethical and Communication Considerations. Further evidence of MSL's outlook on collaboration is perfectly stated in her edited book, 'Early intervention is the perfect training ground for learning how to collaborate with others whose values, experiences, and perspectives are different from our own'.

After 37 years on the faculty, MSL retired from Gallaudet University in August 2015. However, she remains as the Co Director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers and their Families: Collaboration and Leadership Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program. MSL has broadened the reach of EHDI knowledge and passed it on to a new generation of professionals. Students in this program have hailed from many states and other countries.

Marilyn Sass-Lehrer clearly has paved the way for many aspiring people to be successful early education and family support providers. Many of us consider her as one of the earliest compassionate, collaborative difference-makers and outstanding mentor.