James Curley

What’s a self-professed beach bum from Carlsbad, Calif., doing at a high-tech, innovation university in upstate New York?

“I’m getting a great education at RIT/NTID where there are outstanding services for deaf students, and taking advantage of the wonderful science and photography programs,” says James Curley, a fourth-year Biomedical Photographic Communication major. “I totally love my major. It perfectly combines my passions for photography and science, and it’s one of only two bachelor’s degree programs in the world in this field.”

Born into a hearing family, Curley became deaf after contracting a rare occurrence of blood poisoning during the birthing process. He attended mainstream middle and high schools before choosing to come east.

“I love my family endlessly, but when I was around 18, I knew I needed to get away and be on my own.”

“I love my family endlessly, but when I was around 18, I knew I needed to get away and be on my own,” he says. “I won’t say it has been easy without my family to support me, but it helps that RIT has quite a support system for deaf students.”

An avid outdoorsman, Curley took a leave of absence from RIT to hike the nearly 2,800-mile Appalachian Trail and the International Appalachian Trail, which run from Georgia to Newfoundland. He hiked a personal best of 1,400 miles, most of them solo, from Georgia to the New York City area. Two months after the hike, he competed in the World Bodysurfing Championship in California.

“I’ve adapted to Rochester weather and taken up racquetball, rock climbing, hiking and showshoeing,” says Curley. “I started the Racquetball Club at RIT and am the current president, trying to get competitive status so we can compete in college tournaments.”

Curley intends to go on for a master’s degree and possibly a Ph.D. He’d like to teach at RIT/NTID, and living in Hawaii is a long-term goal. He’s very focused on his career as evidenced by this favorite quote: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else—and not even know it.”

This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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