George E. Detmold, 88, the retired dean of what is now Gallaudet University who brought prominence to theater productions featuring the school's deaf students, died Aug. 12 at his home in St. Augustine, Fla. He had prostate cancer.

After briefly teaching English at New York colleges, Dr. Detmold decided on a career in college administration. In 1952, he became dean of instruction at Gallaudet, then an unaccredited school for the deaf and hard of hearing.

He rose the next year to dean of the college. During the next 17 years, he played major roles in the college's accreditation and success in winning larger federal grants. He also oversaw its expansion through new departments, including drama.

Long involved as a director in community dramatic productions, he directed Gallaudet's theater troupe in such classic works as "Othello," "Macbeth," "Medea" and "Oedipus Rex."

In 1966, he directed a Gallaudet production of Euripides' "Iphigenia in Aulis" at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theater Foundation in Connecticut. The show was underwritten by a Department of Health, Education and Welfare grant to gauge the need for a national repertory theater for the deaf. That led to the foundation of the National Theatre of the Deaf, based in Connecticut.

George Ernst Detmold was a New York native and a 1938 English graduate of Cornell University, where he captained the fencing team. He also received a master's and a doctoral degree in English from Cornell and did postdoctoral studies in higher educational administration at Columbia University's Teachers College.

Early in his career, he was an English instructor at Cornell and became assistant dean of the college of arts and sciences. He also taught English at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y. He served in the Army in China during World War II.

He moved to St. Augustine from Kensington in 1976 and advocated greater funding for the public library system in his Florida county.

His marriage to Elizabeth Park Detmold ended in divorce. Two sons from that marriage died, Gregory Detmold in 1954 and Geoffrey Detmold in 1978.

Survivors include his wife, Louise Johns Detmold, whom he married in 1959, of St. Augustine; a son from his first marriage, Christopher Detmold of St. Augustine; two stepsons, Eugene Y. Willis III of Locust Grove, Va., and Amos Willis of Fredericksburg; a brother; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter.