November 5, 2007
ROCHESTER, NY — Capturing the life of master teacher and poet Robert F. Panara was a “labor of love” for Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf professor and author Harry Lang, whose new book, Teaching from the Heart and Soul: The Robert F. Panara Story is now available.
The biography traces the life of RIT’s first deaf professor, hired in 1967 to help establish NTID on RIT’s campus. For more than two decades, he enthralled both deaf and hearing students with his vivid interpretations of literature and poetry, often weaving his passion for baseball into his teaching. When he retired in 1988, NTID named its performing arts theater for him, acknowledging his profound influence on NTID’s creative arts program. He also was a founder in the 1960s of the National Theatre of the Deaf.
Panara lost his hearing to spinal meningitis in 1931. He was only 10 years old, but his strong reading and writing skills allowed him to finish high school and go to college. As a college student he wrote, “The Significance of the Reading Problem,” a paper that described his belief that the world needed more teachers who could “teach from the heart and soul.”
The book details Panara’s childhood in the Bronx, his devotion to baseball, his unforgettable meeting with Babe Ruth and his father’s efforts to find a cure for the deafness that threatened to sideline his athletic and academic ambitions.
“This biography is more than the journey of my life,” Panara said. “It also is a love story about Shirley (Panara’s wife of 56 years, who died in 2003) and about our son, John, who followed in my footsteps and teaches English at RIT/NTID. The mosaic that Harry created reveals the affinities of our shared deaf experiences, as writer and subject bonded together and became best friends while working to complete the whole.”
Lang works in the Department of Research and Teacher Education at RIT/NTID.
Teaching from the Heart and Soul is available from Gallaudet University Press.