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Marie Jean Philip - Epilogue

 

Marie Jean Philip in 1997, just before her death.

 

In 1985, The Learning Center for Deaf Children in Framingham was able to convince Marie Philip to begin a new career as Special Assistant to the Director for Implementation of Bilingual/Bicultural Policies. This was in addition to her teaching position at Northeastern University. After 2 years, Marie agreed to take on the full-time position of Bilingual Bicultural Coordinator, which she held from 1988 until her death in 1997. She served as a Bilingual/Bicultural consultant to the Delaware School for the Deaf from 1994-98, during Edward Bosco's administration. Throughout this time, Marie was also working as a freelance interpreter in settings that ranged from local to international.

Marie was pursuing her goal of a Masters Degree in Deaf Education, leading to a PhD, at Boston University, when she died.

Marie's broad background of knowledge, experience, and research made her much in demand as a speaker locally, nationally, and internationally. Her presentations provided insight into the unique Bilingual/Bicultural approach to the education of Deaf children and helped non-Deaf people develop a better understanding of the Deaf World. She visited many countries, including Italy, Japan, El Salvador, England, Canada, and France, and held a strong belief that people in these countries should embrace their own language/culture first, with exposure to other languages, including American Sign Language, as a second language. She cherished the rights of people to embrace their own unique identities.

While at The Learning Center, Marie developed a reputation as the children's favorite storyteller. Her facial expressions and language skills filled stories with excitement, laughter, terror, and happiness. The staff loved to watch her stories, too. Her niece Jessica and nephew Jonah were especially fortunate, as they enjoyed her storytelling both at home and at school.

Marie died unexpectedly on September 24, 1997 due to blood clots that lodged in her lungs. She was brought by ambulance to a hospital but they were not able to save her. She left us to begin the next part of her journey. Expressions of love and support arrived from all over the globe. The Philip/Meehan family lost more than a daughter, a sister and an aunt, but also a friend, mentor, teacher, researcher, advocate, resource, inspiration and storyteller. Although Marie never had children of her own, she considered all the children at The Learning Center to be her children and her legacy.

Sue Philip
February 2004

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School for Deaf Honors ASL Pioneer

FRAMINGHAM - People spoke with their hands and their hearts yesterday at a dedication ceremony for the Learning Center for Deaf Children's new school building.

Waving their hands in the air as a visual sign of applause in American Sign Language, dozens of parents, teachers and students celebrated the official opening of the Marie Jean Philip Elementary School, named after a beloved teacher who died five years ago.

In a ceremony attended by acting Gov. Jane Swift, who was the keynote speaker, people spoke of the legacy of Marie Jean Philip, a hearing-impaired woman who worked 12 years at the learning center from 1985 to 1997, when she died at 44. Philip's legacy went beyond the school's walls, making her one of the country's foremost activists for deaf education and literacy. A graduate of Gallaudet College and Northeastern University, she helped establish American Sign Language as a recognized language in colleges across the state. She also helped form the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

At the ceremony, all speakers except Swift and the Learning Center Chairman Brian Peoples used sign language. Eight English-Sign Language interpreters translated what was being said.

Nobody lacked words to speak of Philip and how much she loved telling stories, how much she loved childrien, and how much children loved her.Words came easy when they described her good sense of humor, her custom of sitting wiht her legs crossed, and her love of drinking coffee. Nobody, they said, was more deserving than Philip to have the new school building named after her.

A tribute offered by middle school supervisor Patrick Costello touched the audience. "If you pass by, walk by or drive by the brand-new elementary school building, consider that 'Marie's home'," said Costello. "That's where Marie resides. Tell everyone in the greater community that Marie lives with us, and her spirit is around us.

Philip's relatives were overwhelmed with emotion. "When he said, 'This is Marie's home,' that's when it hit me," Sue Philip of Woburn, Philip's sister, said through an interpreter. "She is no longer with us, but her spirit is still here," she said. "Her work will not end, and she'll be remembered forever." Philip's family donated $10,000 to the school for scholarships.

The new $2 million school, a two-story building with spacious classrooms, will house 60 students who were - until recently - taking classes in a converted barn on the school's Central Street campus.

Swift greeted students for "leaving the barn and coming into the school," and praised Philip's efforts in fighting for the deaf community. "She stood for education and opportunity for everyone as a pioneer for the establishment of American Sign Language as a standard language in colleges throughout Massachusetts," said Swift. "This new building, named in her honor, will serve as a haven for learning and opportunity for every student that enters its promising halls."

The 207-pupil school serves students from infancy through high school, and students are required to take the MCAS test at all mandatory grade levels. The 32-year-old school is considered New England's leading school for the deaf and prepares its graduates for college.

[From the newsroom of the MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Massachusetts, Friday, May 31, 2002. By Liz Mineo.]

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[The December issue of Deaf Life contained the following tribute to Marie Philip.]

"Marie Jean Philip, Bilingual-Bicultural Coordinator at The Learning Center for Deaf Children in Framingham, Masscahusetts, may not have been well-known outside the Deaf community, but within the community, she was a respected, even revered figure, a legendary advocate and a pioneer teacher in the Bilingual-Bicultural movement, whose influence extended beyond the United States. Our cover feature has been written by several persons who knew "MP" best. They loved her, worked with her, learned from and with her, shared her concerns (even if they disagreed), grieve over her unexpected death, cherish their memories of her, and will carry forward the work she left unfinished."

[Publisher's Note]: "Marie Philip was one of a few exceptional women actively involved in the Bilingual-Bicultural (Bi-Bi) movement. Her untimely death deprives us of a dynamic teacaher, student, and ASL advocate. But those who worked with her are continuing her teachings, so her influence, we hope, will not be lost; it will grow.

"MP worked tirelessly on behalf of the Deaf community, ASL, Deaf children and their right to a high-quality education--but she didn't lose her sense of humor, her empathy, or her perspective. She didn't see hearing people as the "bad guys." She didn't scorn those who disagreed. She believed in making allies.

"The assault against Deaf rights, ASL, and schools for the deaf continues--witness what's happening with the scheduled closure of the Nebraska School for the Deaf. There are many things Deaf people are angry about. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there are other emotions.

"MP did her 'preaching' by example, and she took a positive approach--not one motivated by anti-hearing anger, but by a love that embraced the Deaf community. We will miss her."

Matthew Moore

See Deaf Life, volume X, number 6, December 1997, pages 10-27 for tributes to Marie Philip.]

 

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