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.