By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MASON - Deaf college students from around the nation might be traveling to this Warren County city to study religion under plans by church officials to build a $1 million college dormitory on an expanded campus.
Officials from the Sword Deaf Baptist Church will ask city officials next month to rezone their 8.5-acre site at 5529 Mason Road to allow the construction of a two-story, 15,000-square-foot college dormitory to open in fall 2005.
The church already holds some ministerial college classes for about 40 deaf and hard-of-hearing students. But with a dormitory housing up to 100 students, the church would more than double its enrollment and create a campus that might later include a gymnasium where deaf basketball and volleyball teams would compete.
Ohio Board of Regents officials say they're not aware of another religious college for the deaf in Ohio. Nationwide, there are fewer than a dozen, including Sword Deaf.
"We want to offer the deaf a good religious education for college students all over America and the world," the Rev. Fred Adams said through a sign language interpreter.
Adams is one of fewer than 50 deaf pastors in the nation.
Pastor Fred Adams of The Sword Deaf Church in Mason holds a rendering of the $1 million dormitory that is to be built on the church grounds (background).
(Michael Snyder photo)
The independent, fundamentalist Baptist church and deaf college were founded by Adams in 1989. The church has about 70 members.
Church officials have already met with residents whose properties border the church and won general support for the $1 million dormitory project. Pending zoning approval by Mason officials, it is scheduled to break ground this summer.
Richard Fair, the city engineer, praised church officials for reaching out to the adjacent, western Mason community before initiating their rezoning request, which could be approved as early as June.
Gary Burket, whose family has lived in the adjacent Birchwood Farms subdivision for a decade, approves of the plans.
Four-year colleges for the deaf, religious or secular, are rare in United States, where the population of deaf or hard-of-hearing people is estimated to be around 28 million, or nearly 10 percent.
Church officials estimated there are about 150,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing people in Southwest Ohio.
Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., is the nation's largest and most notable university for the deaf, with an enrollment of more than 2,000 students studying in dozens of undergraduate and post-graduate fields of study. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y., is the nation's largest technological college for the deaf.
St. Rita's School for the Deaf, a preschool-grade 12 Catholic school in Evendale, is the only church and school for the deaf in Greater Cincinnati.
Most states, including Ohio School for the Deaf in Columbus and Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville, offer residential and daytime public elementary and secondary education schools for the deaf.
Pastor Adams said he wants the expanded Sword Deaf College religious education program - like secular deaf universities such as Gallaudet - to attract hearing students wanting to learn the sign language the deaf often use in daily communication. Moreover, he hopes to eventually train and send missionaries from the Mason bible college around the world.
Sword Deaf College student Maria Daly is a hearing student learning sign language as part of her ministry training. Daly praised Adams as a "blessing to deaf people because there are so many deaf people in world who are aren't being reached."
Scott Huston, a deaf Mason resident and church member, said through an interpreter that he "can't wait to see more deaf people become pastors and missionaries."
Sword Deaf Church
Founded in 1989 by Rev. Fred Adams, who at age 1 became deaf after an illness. The small, independent fundamentalist Baptist church and college in Mason is one of fewer than a dozen religious deaf colleges in the nation.
The church, at 5529 Mason Road, has about 70 deaf and hard-of-hearing members who regularly attend services.
Church officials have announced plans to build a college dormitory, tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2005, that would house up to 100 deaf students from around the nation.
Officials plan to raise $1 million for the project. For information, call (513) 339-0422 or visit www.sworddeaf.org.
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