Biography of Robert Davila Published by RIT Press

Story Photo: Biography of Robert Davila Published by RIT Press

A biography of Robert R. Davila, who overcame poverty to become a national leader in education and a role model for Hispanic youth, is now available from RIT Press.

"Moments of Truth - Robert R. Davila: The Story of a Deaf Leader,” chronicles Davila’s life from the barrio to the board room. When he was 8, he witnessed his father’s death as a migrant farm worker. Three years later, he became deaf. Yet, Davila went on to become the highest-ranking deaf person ever appointed to a federal government position.

 Despite the lack of sign language interpreters at colleges at the time, Davila became the first deaf Hispanic to earn a doctorate degree. He served as president of several major organizations serving deaf people. He also became headmaster of the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, and was the first deaf CEO at RIT's NTID. He is now president of Gallaudet University in Washington. D.C.

Upon his retirement in 2004 from RIT/NTID, Davila said he was taken by surprise to learn that his biography would be written. “I was, frankly, flabbergasted,” Davila said. “I had not considered then what value or impact my life’s examples might have on people. Now that the book is out, I realize that its greatest value is in its potential to inspire and motivate young deaf and hard-of-hearing students to strive for high achievements.”

Former President George H.W. Bush, who in 1989 appointed Davila as assistant secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services for the U.S. Department of Education, provided an endorsement of the biography, saying Davila remains “an inspiration to all who know him. His story is proof that hard work, determination and courage can overcome even life’s toughest challenges.”

 Alan Hurwitz, NTID’s current CEO, and dean and vice president of RIT for NTID, called Davila “a remarkable leader and an inspiration. He’s living proof that you can achieve your goals in life, regardless of what hardships you may face, if you work hard enough to achieve them.”

The book was authored by lead writer Harry Lang, a faculty member in the Department of Research and Teacher Education at RIT/NTID; Oscar Cohen, a former superintendent and CEO at Lexington School & Center for the Deaf in New York City; and Joseph E. Fischgrund, headmaster of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia. It was commissioned by now-retired RIT President Albert J. Simone, who called the story “both inspirational and motivational.”

 Lang said he and his co-authors were asked to summarize Davila’s life story as a way to honor him as NTID’s first deaf chief executive officer when he retired. “We quickly realized, especially after researching Bob’s early life experiences in the barrio that his biography revealed a sense of resilience parents and teachers would want to see in all children faced with similar challenges,” Lang said. “That potential for inspiring other children was the primary ‘perk’ in writing this book. It recommitted the teacher in each of us.”

Davila credits his role models when he was young for his inspiration. “Now I am in a position to do the same for others,” he said. “If I can have a positive impact on a few young folks, the story of my life will have achieved a tremendous measure of goodness. I am hopeful this will be the case.”

“Moments of Truth – Robert R. Davila,” is available in paperback ($18) or hard cover ($26) at RIT’s Campus Connections bookstore, the RIT Press Web site and at

For more information, contact:
Greg Livadas
(585) 475-6217 V/TTY

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