Gallaudet University in Washington. (Matthew Vita/Gallaudet)

Choosing a new president is always a key moment for a university. That is especially true for a school in the nation’s capital that was the scene of a student uprising called “Deaf President Now.”

Gallaudet University, the nation’s flagship school for the deaf and hard of hearing, is in the closing stretch of a presidential search. President T. Alan Hurwitz, 72, in office since 2010, plans to step down at the end of this year.

This week Gallaudet announced three finalists to succeed him. They will come to the Northeast Washington campus in September to meet students and faculty.

Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano is vice president of programs for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, Minn. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Beloit College in Wisconsin and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Pamela Lloyd-Ogoke is chief of community integration services and supports for the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and a master’s degree in deafness rehabilitation from New York University.

Annette Reichman is director of the Office of Special Institutions in the U.S. Department of Education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Gallaudet and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling with the deaf from the University of Arizona.

All three women are deaf.

That’s a key issue at Gallaudet. The 1,500-student school was federally chartered in 1864 under the signature of President Abraham Lincoln and receives a special annual appropriation from Congress as a center of higher learning for the deaf. But it did not have its first deaf president until students rose up in 1988 to demand one, shutting down the campus, an event that became a watershed for the deaf community. The demonstrators wanted the world to know the only thing deaf people can’t do is hear.

Every president since then has been deaf: I. King Jordan (1988-2006), Robert R. Davila (2007-09) and Hurwitz.

Students converse through sign language over lunch at Gallaudet University. (Nikki Kahn/TWP)

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