Educator and editor
Memorial: Portrait photograph presented by his widow, Mrs. Mary B. Fay, November 22, 1923; Fay House
Edward Allen Fay, a longtime professor at Gallaudet College and strong advocate of sign language, was born Nov. 22, 1843, in Morristown, New Jersey. His father, the Reverend Barnabas Fay, taught at the New York School Institution for the Deaf (Fanwood) and was instrumental in establishing the school for the deaf in Flint, Michigan, where he became principal in 1854.
Edward Allen Fay thus became interested in the deaf from a young age and acquired an early fluency in sign language. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1862 and taught at the Michigan School for the Deaf for three years, after which Edward Miner Gallaudet recruited him to teach at the recently established Gallaudet College.
A close friendship developed between the two prominent educators of the deaf. Dr. Fay remained at Gallaudet College for 57 years, from 1866 to 1923. He was professor of languages — Latin, French and German — and became vice president of the College in 1885.
He edited the American Annals of the Deaf for 50 years, from 1870 to 1920, the longest span the publication has been edited by an individual. He contributed almost 150 articles and published the Histories of American Schools for the Deaf (1893) and Marriages of the Deaf in America (1898). His son, Allan Bradshaw Fay, also was an educator of the deaf and helped him with editing the Annals.
Fay was the only hearing person other than Edward Miner Gallaudet to be invited to participate in the National Association of the Deaf’s campaign to preserve American Sign Language using motion picture technology before World War I.
After Edward Fay’s death on July 14, 1923, The Buff and Blue published its November 1923 issue as the E. A. Fay Memorial issue. The house in which he lived in the University’s historical district, Fay House, was renamed after him.