Remembering Dr. E. Ross Stuckless

Dr. E. Ross Stuckless, long-time faculty member of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, died July 21 in Connecticut, at age 80.

Stuckless, whose younger brother was deaf, was the first hearing faculty member hired at NTID. He started in September 1967 after serving as coordinator of the University of Pittsburgh’s doctoral program in education of deaf students. He also had served as an instructor at the American School for the Deaf and instructor and psychologist at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Pittsburgh.

In many ways, Stuckless was responsible for helping to make the case for the existence of NTID. In 1963, he investigated the occupational functioning level of young deaf adults in six states, a study that showed that individuals who were deaf were not getting adequate training and were generally under-employed. This study contributed to the surge of interest and concern in Congress and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare that helped lead to NTID’s founding.

Stuckless served RIT/NTID for 33 years, first as director of Research and Training, then as director of Integrative Research. In December 1992, he became special assistant to the Director of NTID, and in January 1995, he returned to the faculty, where he served until his retirement in 2000.

“Ross had an innate ability to envision how technology could benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing people,” said Dr. Gerald Walter, friend and former colleague at RIT/NTID. “People would come to his office and talk about an idea, and before they left, Ross would have moved the idea into a plan of action.”

Some of his early research focused on the application of programmed instruction, and later, computer-assisted instruction in educating deaf students. He was the author of numerous publications, including “Educational Interpreting for Deaf Students” and “Assessment of the Written Language of Deaf Studies.”

“He will be remembered for his foresight in connecting technology to advance education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students,” said Walter. “When email was first developed, Ross saw its potential as a communication tool for deaf people. He predicted that text messaging would take the concept even further, and envisioned speech-to-text technology that eventually was developed as C-Print® here on the RIT/NTID campus and is now used worldwide.”

“Ross was a terrific associate and huge innovator in deaf education,” RIT/NTID Professor Michael Stinson, said. “In the early 1980s, Ross pioneered at NTID the development of real-time speech-to-text technology as a means of communication access for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mainstream RIT classrooms. This technology—Communication Access Real-time Translation (i.e. CART)—was the first-ever effort to provide a speech-to-text service as an accommodation; one that is now provided all over the world. In the late 1980s, Ross suggested that a computer-assisted word abbreviation system on a computer with a standard keyboard could be the basis for a different speech-to-text service that is easier to learn to use than CART. This suggestion was a key idea in the development of the C-Print speech-to-text service that NTID uses today.”  

Stuckless earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto, a master’s at Gallaudet College and his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

He is survived by his sons Randy (Sue), E. Ross “Rusty,”  and Evan and step-daughter Melinda (Mike) Smith as well as 11 grandchildren.

He was predeceased by his first wife, Lois, and second wife, Carol, a former RIT/NTID employee.

A memorial service is being planned for 9 a.m. on September 19 in the Schmitt Interfaith Center at RIT.

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