Dr. Michael Kemp: Obituary from His Family

Posted on 1 December 2008. Filed under: Deaf, East Asia Pacific Region, Latin America & Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, News, signed languages | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Gallaudet University Provost’s Office has released the following obituary for Dr. Mike Kemp. People who wish to send condolences to his family will want to take note of the contact information provided at the end; condolences should please be sent directly to the family, NOT via We Can Do. I had reported on the news of Kemp’s loss over the weekend. I know that he will be missed not only by the Gallaudet University community but also by the Deaf communities of Vietnam and Thailand.

December 1, 2008

Dear Campus Community:

The family of Dr. Michael Kemp, who passed away last week, has written the following obituary in celebration of Dr. Kemp’s life and accomplishments:

Dr. W. Michael Kemp, 60, a professor in the Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, died on November 24, 2008 in Alexandria, Virginia.

William Michael Kemp was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to William and Marie Kemp. Deaf from birth, he graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School. Mike, as he was known, received his bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1971 from Gallaudet University, and his master’s degree in deaf education in 1975 from William McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College). He earned the degree of Doctor of Education in higher education administration in 1986 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His dissertation was titled “A Comparison of the Simultaneous Method Evaluation and the Sign Communication Proficiency Interview (SCPI).”

Dr. Kemp taught American Sign Language for 35 years, the last 31 at Gallaudet University. He served for 12 years as chair of three different academic departments before stepping down to focus on teaching and consulting. His main area of interest and expertise was training people to communicate gesturally to prepare for travel abroad.

Since 1980, he had trained sign language instructors throughout the United States and the world, in the Far East, Central and South America, the Caribbean islands, the Middle East, and Europe. He taught at the University of Puerto Rico, the University of British Columbia, Douglas College (in British Columbia), Thailand’s Ratchasuda College, and Vietnam’s Teacher Training Center.

For the last 10 years, Dr. Kemp worked extensively in Thailand and Vietnam with groups of deaf students in the Sign Language Teacher Training Program. He made frequent trips to serve as a visiting professor at the Cao Dang Su Pham (Teaching Training Center) in Dong Nai Province, near Ho Chi Minh City. Last month, Dr. Kemp was invited as a technical expert on information and communication access at the “Gathering Inputs and Recommendations for the Development of the National Law on Disability” conference in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Dr. Kemp received a research stipend award from the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research to attend the 18th International Congress on Education of the Deaf in 1995 in Tel Aviv, Israel. He also received the T. J. O’Rourke Memorial Award from the American Sign Language Teachers Association in 2002 in recognition of his international work, and the Teacher of the Year Award in 2008 from the Alpha Sigma Pi Fraternity.

Dr. Kemp was a member of the advisory board for the interpreter training program at Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale campus. He was a member of the National and Virginia Associations of the Deaf. He enjoyed photography, reading, traveling, and spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren.

Dr. Kemp is survived by a son, William M. Kemp, Jr., of Fairfax, Virginia; William Jr.’s mother, Dr. Vicki J. Shank, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science; his wife of 13 years, Joan Kemp; and two step-daughters, Jennifer Yost Ortiz and her husband, Anthony, and Jamie Yost, a staff interpreter with Gallaudet Interpreting Service, and her husband, Raymond Merritt, a professor in the Department of Biology; and two grandchildren, Zion and Zeke Ortiz. He is also survived by a brother, Thomas Kemp, his wife, Linda, and two nephews, Dan and Jack.

There will be two memorial services. The first will be private, for family and close friends. The second will take place in early 2009 on the Gallaudet University campus, and will be open to the community. The date for this service will be announced at a later time, as will information about memorial contributions.

Condolences may be sent to Dr. Kemp’s son, Bill Kemp, at 13112 Watchwood Lane, Fairfax, VA 22315, and to his wife, Joan Kemp, P.O. Box 4228, Alexandria, VA 22303.



If there are any obituaries for Dr. Kemp that have been written by members of the Deaf communities in Vietnam or Thailand, or that are otherwise centered on his international work in developing nations, I would be interested in publishing them at We Can Do. Or, if these have already been posted elsewhere, then I would like to link to them. Please contact me by leaving a comment below with your email address in the email address field, or send me an email at ashettle[at]patriot.net (substitute the @ at sign @ for [at] to create my address).

A biography of Dr. Kemp is available at http://deafstudies.gallaudet.edu/Faculty-Staff/ASL_and_Deaf_Studies/Kemp_Mike.html. A former student of Dr. Kemp at Gallaudet created a video memorial for Kemp, presented in American Sign Language, at http://deaffilmblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/in-memory-of-dr-mike-kemp-re-defining-d.html.

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[Published at wecando.wordpress.com (We Can Do)]

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