This story is reprinted from Fresno State Magazine, as written by Chuck Radke, for the Summer 2022 edition.

When Joseph Slotnick was 3 years old, spinal meningitis took from him the ability to hear. It was the 1930s, a time when Deaf children were rarely given an opportunity at an education. But Joseph’s parents, Dr. Morris M. and Esther B. Slotnick, advocated for their son, ultimately laying the foundation for his graduation from Harvard and his success as a computer engineer.

To honor the memory of his parents, Slotnick and his wife, Mary, recently gifted $1 million to establish the Joseph S. Slotnick Distinguished Fellowship in the Silent Garden to support graduate-level Deaf education within the Department of Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies at Fresno State.

The Silent Garden at Fresno State was established by professor emeritus Dr. Paul W. Ogden (back), a longtime friend of Joseph and Mary Slotnick.

The Silent Garden supports free educational programs and outreach for the region’s Deaf and hard of hearing community and was established by Fresno State professor emeritus Dr. Paul W. Ogden, a longtime friend of the Slotnicks.

Fortunately for Slotnick, his parents believed in education regardless of his ability to hear. They sent him to one of the nation’s few boarding schools for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he excelled.

After graduating from eighth grade, Slotnick entered a private high school for hearing students and was immediately advanced to his sophomore year. He quickly adapted to learning in the hearing world, graduated fourth in his class of 28,
and went on to study at Harvard University. With encouragement from his father, a mathematician and himself a Harvard graduate, Slotnick became the fifth Deaf person to graduate from the university. He did so without the help of note-takers or interpreters.

Slotnick went on to a have a long career in computer programming and systems analysis including work with System Development Corporation, a pioneer in computer software. He was also involved with the development of the TTY telecommunication device for the Deaf or hard of hearing.

“Having highly trained teachers early in life proved critical to my success, and my hope is that my gift will allow Fresno State to continue to educate qualified teachers of the Deaf now and forever,” Slotnick says. “This is my lasting legacy as well as that of my parents.”

University President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval (left) presents his red Bulldogs necktie to Joseph Slotnick, who, along with his wife Mary, gifted $1 million to support graduate-level Deaf education at Fresno State.

Read the full story at

All photos courtesy of Fresno State / Claire Takahashi.


Additional links:

Joseph Slotnick dedicates $1.5 million to deaf studies program – Fresno State News, January 2013