Deaf Studies department chair Dr. Lawrence Fleischer dies unexpectedly

Photo courtesy of the Deaf Studies department

Dr. Lawrence Fleischer, a professor who was instrumental in developing CSUN’s Deaf Studies program, and a leader in many facets of the deaf community, died Sunday at the age of 64.

“We lost a giant,” said Dr. Genie Gertz, who has been a faculty member in the department for 14 years. “Larry was larger than life. It is a devastating loss for the deaf community here in the U.S. and all over the world. He was a pioneer, a trailblazer in the field of deaf studies who was way ahead of his time.”

Fleischer was the endnote speaker at the American Sign Language Teachers Association conference Saturday in Phoenix, Ariz., where his daughter, Flavia, an assistant professor of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies at Utah Valley University, was also a keynote speaker, Gertz said. He collapsed and went into full cardiac arrest after arriving at Bob Hope Airport Sunday evening and died at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.

In addition to his daughter, Fleischer is survived by his wife Vera, son Flann and granddaughter Ryssa.

Affiliated with CSUN since 1972, Fleischer began by working in special education and with teachers for the deaf, Gertz said. He was considered a “major architect” of the Deaf Studies program since it began in 1975, according to a biography provided by the Deaf Studies department.

“We worked well for the deaf community,” Gertz said of her working relationship with Fleischer.

The program became a full-fledged department in 1994 and now has over 475 majors enrolled, Gertz said.

Born Lawrence Raymond Fleischer on Oct. 11, 1945, to deaf parents in Long Island, N.Y., Fleischer graduated from the New York School for the Deaf, also known as Fanwood, in White Plains, N.Y., and graduated with a Bachelors Degree from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.  He received his doctor of education degree from Brigham Young University in 1975 and taught mathematics at Gallaudet for three years prior to coming to CSUN. He was active in several organizations, including the Council on Education of the Deaf and the Deaf Communications Foundation. He played football and baseball at Gallaudet and went on to serve as president of the USA Deaf Sports Federation.

Fleischer will be honored this morning in front of the Oviatt Library during the Stop Audism Day event. Organized by the Deaf Studies Association and Deaf CSUNians, the demonstration aims to get the community together to support the use of American Sign Language and other signed languages and fight against audism, “the hearing way of dominating, restructuring, and exercising authority over the deaf community.” The event starts at 11:30 a.m.

Plans for other memorials honoring Fleischer are pending.

  • Teri E. Bennett

    Oh my goodness! I just learned today that Dr. Fleischer passed away and I am truly saddened. He was my ASL teacher for 2 years in the late 70’s and I learned so much about ASL and Deaf culture through his teachings. At the time, the kids and Vera would come to the class. I went on to work at GLAD and become an Interpreter and still work in Seattle,WA. What a sad day for everyone, my thoughts go out to his family, the students,staff and all those who knew him.

  • Therese S.

    I am sad to hear of Dr. Fleischer’s passing. I was in Deaf Studies from 1986-1992 and will always remember him as a friendly teacher who was willing to share his knowledge with everyone who asked. My condolences to all his family and many friends and acquaintances, he was unique to the world and will be missed.

  • Karen Latimer

    To the family of Dr. Fleischer,
    Thank you for sharing him with us. Dr. Fleisher’s guidance, as you can see from the many comments above, influenced so many of us. We are truly blessed for his influence in our lives.

    You are in my prayers.

    Karen Latimer
    CSUN Deaf Studies Class 1990

  • Dmitriy

    I am CSUN Alumni and I seen problem of this personally. In my last semester, I was taking fin 437 class(finance advance topics) and we had 1 deaf student. This deaf student had 2 interpreter per cession and they would type everything on the computer and it would show up on student computer(computer aid interpretation). The problem was that one of them was much better compare to other so you can tell when he would be missing a lot of stuff depending who was doing translation at the time. Being how bad the CSUN budget is, I unfortunately do not think that an improvement will happen anytime soon.

  • Andrej R. Strauss

    There is something special that so many of us can say that sadly so many more will not be able to… We knew, lived with and loved the Deaf giant Dr. Larry Fleischer. He was my professor, mentor and friend.

  • Nicole Lee-Sye

    Dr. Fleischer was such an amazing man with such a beautiful and kind soul. As a Deaf Studies graduate I remember him with nothing but fondness and gratitude. Dr. Fleischer was never too busy to assist someone with a question, or discuss a lecture topic, etc. It was a priviledge to study under him in the Deaf Studies Department during my time at CSUN.

    My heart is saddened by this news and my sincerest condolences go out to his family and to the entire Deaf Community over this tragic and sudden loss. Dr. Fliescher’s work, dedication to the community, and his warm smile will live on in our hearts and memories, he will be missed more than words can express.

  • Dr. Carolyn Pointer

    I am in tears as I sit to write this. Several years ago Dr. Fleisher came into my life. I was progressively losing my hearing. To our knowledge, I was the only visible Black student in the program. I was young. I wanted to be a teacher. Dr. Larry made such a difference in my life because he along with one other person, Joyce (Groode) Linden, definitely helped me to overcome my denial and begin to accept my deafness. He made me see me as ME…not my deafness, not my Blackness, but me…the person I am today. When I saw Dr. Larry only three weeks ago he still remembered me and embraced me and encouraged me. He touched the lives of so many, both hearing and deaf/deafened. I know he will continue to touch the lives of many more in his legendary works and in his family and those who worked along with him. We will all miss him. I will never forget him. God rest his soul and give him loving peace.

  • Myisha J. Blackman

    Dear Fleischer and Deaf Studies Family,

    I send my love and prayers to all you. I was so hurt to hear the news, yet I join you in celebrating the life of a great man. All the time I’ve known him, I absolutely refused to call him “Larry.” Dr. Flesicher was my professor and advisor while I was a student (1998-2000), wrote me a receommendation letter for admission to grad school, then welcomed me into the Deaf Studies department to teach for one year. I will always remember him as a kind and gentle man…focused and living a life poured out for what he believed in.

    Thank you, sir, for all you’ve given the world.


  • Maria M.

    Dear Fleischer’s Family:

    I’m writing to send my condolence for a husband, father, professor and as a counselor.

    I met Larry back in 2007 when I got accepted in the Deaf Department Program. At that time I was searching the program requirements for Int’l students. In my country they don’t offer a major of Deaf Studies like at CSUN.

    I remember Larry, with his great personality with me. Did not matter if I was in his class or not he was always smiling and chatting with everyone that surrounded him. ven when we meet around school or at any Deaf events, he would hold that conversation and came and wave at me.

    I remember Larry, how he always welcomed me every time I walk in into the Deaf Studies Department looking for advice. Every time I was struggling with something he would find a way to assist me. In every moment of my life Larry showed me great support, telling me that life needs to keep going not matter how difficult your obstacles are. Larry told me that the path of life is reflected by being strong, patience, enthusiastic and confidence about yourself and mostly to have a positive way of thinking in life.

    I remember Larry, as a person who never complained or had any arguments with anyone. I saw Larry taking care of every situation students had or any issues inside of the Deaf Department that he received. Even when he ahad a hectic schedule, Larry mak sure to leave problems solved before going on a business road trip.

    I remember Larry, as a great professor. Larry was well prepared while lecturing my classes. He was one of the few professor that let all the students participate and be able to express their feelings. This allowed us to discover more about themselves and be able to accept who we ate and our surroundings. Larry also showed us contemporaneous videos, where you could see him explaining different fields of Deaf Studies and the importance of being Deaf. At the same time he always made jokes, in order to have an interesting class.

    I’m so proud to had the opportunity to meet Larry. He will always be a great role model that I can look up to.

    I’m sure Larry will always be your guidance in each of your lives.

    Best regards and God Bless each one of you.

    Maria M.

  • Kate Vadakin

    I don’t know Dr. Fleischer, but I can feel the shock of the Deaf community, especially the ASLTA community. It’s so sad that someone that GREAT is gone from us. I wish I’d met him before he left us. My heart goes out to his family and the Deaf community.

  • Tracey Brown

    My prayers are with the Fleischer family. I was completely shocked and heartbroken by Dr. Larry’s sudden passing. Ever since I had the pleasure of learning from him when he taught our Bi-Lingual, Bi-Cultural course at York University in Toronto, Canada I was inspired. His sense of humour, passion and wealth of knowledge was incredible. I was so excited that he agreed to be a keynote presenter at our conference for Teachers of the Deaf next summer in Ontario Canada. Deaf Education now has a tremendous hole! You will be missed terribly by educators and members of the Deaf community from around the world! RIP

  • Julio C. Chang

    This was a saddening founding. I met Dr. Fleischer while I was a Deaf Studies Student a few years ago. He was a great professor, and a good person, kind and intelligent. We shared the same birthday, reason why I used to send him an email every year, which he replied it, “same for you”, but this year I forgot to do it. Last time I saw him was May 04 for the 25 celebration of the Deaf Studies Department. I extend my condolences to his family, the entire CSUN Staff, and the student body for this enormous loss. I will always remember him with gratitude and admiration.

  • Barbie

    Dear Fleischer Family,
    Thank God for sending our humble Dr. Lawrence Fleischer for into our lives. God had His purpose to create him for us. Dr. Lawrence Fleischer guided evryone to get the best education. His education changed everyone with the outstanding causes. Now we have many great educators because of him. God comforts you and He gives His strength to you all. We already miss him sorely.


  • I worked at CSUN from the late eighties to the early nineties. Larry had the best smile, no matter what the circumstance or the situation. He would smile, then nod and then find a solution. He truly was an oak tree for the community. Our condolences to his family and to the CSUN community at large. He will surely be missed.

  • Gina DiNicola

    Hey Everyone, Wonderful Greatest Leader in the world and USA I beleive in him that he is spirit and courage man He met me at CSUN/NCOD he encouraged me to join for teaching assistant for ASL classes as independent study for four units. I was motivated to join to teach with Professor since 1981 to 1987 I realized that double major for Theatre and Deaf Studies He helped me to take four courses for add double major for Bachelors degrees. I never forget that Deaf culture Larry was my professor he wanted me with four students for team for lecture or performance for midterm exam I quickly creatived new cinderalla for communicationism we performed Larry laughed at us.. Larry wanted me to develop fairy tales for deaf children… I wrote script for Deaf Princess I still have it strange ! Larry impressed me that he showed me his script for I love you But… I was surprised that he did… I know that he always gave me surprise his secret planning for film… that’s happen! that’s sad he is gone he and I compete our ideas… we worked and earned money for marketing videotapes from Beyond Sound then Deaf Communication Foundation for Deafestival…since 1981 till present he was gone where I work with ? for film and tv…

  • Nancy M. Carroll

    I am still reeling over the sudden departure of a dear and precious friend. I first met Larry in 1977 as a student at CSUN. I never took his class but his son was enrolled at the campus day care where I was interning as a Child Development major. However, throughout the years I attended his workshops and always he was an inspirational lecturer who forced us to challenge our ways of thinking particularly when it came to the education of the Deaf. He never waivered in his stand for ASL and this was a while before bilingual/bicultural education was even considered for Deaf children!

    In 1999, when I was involved in a legal situation, Larry brought up the issue of audism. That terminology was not well known then, but I read up on the subject and learned how to manage the implications it has on our lives.

    Larry continued to mark my life in significant ways and I know he has made an impact on hundreds others. I will miss talking to him and soliciting his advice on political issues. It is now our responsibility to carry on his work as he would have wanted us to do.

    My thoughts and prayers are with Vera and family for losing such a great man. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

  • Bret Hampton

    I was a student of Dr. Fleischer and a teacher’s assistant to his children in elementary school before I became an interpreter for the deaf. He taught us a great deal about the deaf world and how we as hearing people could help bridge the communication gap between deaf and hearing worlds. I’ll always be thankful to him for my greater understanding of the deaf world as well as how they see us hearing people. I send my condolences to his family and wish them to know how much he enriched the deaf and hearing world.

  • Oscar Balmaseda

    Lawrence Fleischer, mi gran amigo ha fallecido!!!!
    Te recuerdo con carino de cuando nos conocimos en el Congreso del CISS en Sofia Bulgaria. Desde entonces nuestros lazos de amistad jamas se pararon, gracias a nuestros deseos, que fueron de muchos sordos en America, se creo PANAMDES, Organizacion Deportiva Panamericana de Sordos, que fue su primer Presidente. A partir de entonces se ha continuado con exito los Juegos PANAMDES. el I Campeonato Mundial de Beisbol que organizamos en Gallaudet, fue algo apoteosico. Larry tu caracter noble, tu inteligencia refinada….siempre sera recordado en nuestros corazones..
    Tu imagen no ha muerto. Viviras siempre.

  • Laura Sanders

    Dr. Fleischer worked with me when the Communication Disorders Department at CSUN told me I couldn’t graduate from their program due to the fact that I am hard of hearing and that I could never become an audiologist because of it. They said that I would ruin their “perfect placement record” for students getting hired from the dept. Dr. Fleischer told me that all my classes would transfer and that I could even graduate early if I changed my major to the Deaf Studies program and so I did. I graduated 6 months earlier, went on to get my teaching credential and have be teaching Deaf and Deaf autistic kids since graduating in 1988. He was my hero and guided me when I needed direction!!!!! Peace be with you and all your loved ones Dr. Fleischer!

  • Lizabeth Katz

    I am truly saddened to find out that Larry Fleischer is gone. He was once a mentor to me while I was a student at CSUN in late 1970’s. He invited me to be his assistant to teach ASL in one of his classes which helped gained my confidence in teaching. I have crossed paths of Larry over the years and yes, he always presented himself as being interested in everyone’s affairs and was hard-working and goal-directed. He was not afraid of Life itself which is why I am shocked of his passing away.

    I give my condolenses to Vera and her family and hope that memories of Larry would comfort them greatly.

    Lizabeth Katz

  • Really I am shocking his death!I met him twice. One, he was in Buenos Aires, I was his International/ASL Interpreter (2003) and also in Bratislava, Slovakia, last year. Of course that I am Deaf… I shared with him about the ASL – LSA (Sign Language of Arg) experiences and Deaf Culture, Audism and so on…

    He was a really Sport Leader as also for the ASL Culture and Deaf…

    I ll be miss him!!

  • Dr. Barbara LeMaster

    Along with others, I am shocked to learn of Dr. Larry Fleischer’s passing. I join Dr. Geertz, and Ella Mae Lentz, and others who have expressed the enormity of Dr. Fleischer’s contributions to his field. I met him in 1977 under the National Interpreter Training Consortium (NITC) program in the summer at CSUN. He was one of the first Deaf people I’d met who did not switch from the use of ASL for the convenience of hearing signers. I greatly appreciated his willingness to share his language and culture with others. He, among others, inspired me to continue on in the field. He supported my work in various ways over the years, including inviting me to present my MA work at CSUN, to be involved in a CSU-wide consortium of schools that taught ASL, introducing me to many incredibly gifted people in this field, and more recently, meeting with Deaf leaders from Ireland to talk about mutual interests and to share his expertise. He was good at this – look at how he has built up the faculty at CSUN, and the majors to 475 strong! It is slowly dawning on me just how much I am going to miss him. I have come to rely on his being there whenever I had a question for him, or needed his advice. He was a true leader – a leader among leaders. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his family, to his colleagues, and all of his many friends. He will truly be missed.

  • My name is Marty Blankenship. I am a coda and recently retired teacher at Carson High School (LAUSD). I taught ASL for 12 years and have proudly sent many students to CSUN to continue their Deaf Studies and ASL experience. Dr. Fleischer always welcomed me and my students on field trips every Spring. We toured the CSUN campus and visited ASL classes. This experience was truly appreciated by the students. Larry and I would love to share ‘old days’ stories and people and families from LACD. Although Larry was an avid Giants baseball fan and I an avid Dodger fan, we were friends!
    I would like everyone to know that I could sense an proud educational approach from Larry. Very proud of his family, his personal accomplishments, and of the CSUN Deaf Studies program.
    To his family, I would like to express deepest sympathy to all. He will be truly missed!

    Marty Blankenship

  • Fred E. Gravatt

    A great and wonderful man! Sadden, shocked, dismayed – to learn of his departure so soon.We will sorely miss him .. please accept our condolences, prayer and thoughts.May the God of strength and encouragements be yours – to family memebers, close friends, friends near and far.

    If anything I can do to assist, please feel free to ask.


  • Gwendolyn

    Dear Fleischer’s Family.

    Im really shock Dr Larry Fleischer passed away. He is still young 64 yrs old. My Deeply Condolences, Please know that our thoughts and
    prayers are with your children, family and friends. May God watch over him and his full family. Rest in Peace Dr Lawrence Fleischer.

    From Fanwood,
    Gwendolyn ~

    • Cezanne Enriquez

      I don’t think that heartbroken can possibly describe how I felt when I heard of what happened to Dr. Fleischer. He was my mentor and my advisor when I went to CSUN from 1998-2000. He was the first person that I met when I went to visit the university and I loved the long conversation we had when we met. He made me feel very comfortable about moving to a new place and he let me know what to expect from the program. Dr. Fleischer will be very missed and I know that all of us that had the wonderful opportunity to have him as a teacher will always remember his stories and his teaching. Dr. Fleischer, with all my respect, admiration and love, I will truly miss you.