AG Bell Legacy of Innovation Gala

Sara_Lexi_GilIn an unforgettable evening, AG Bell celebrated 125 years of our association in grand style at the Legacy of Innovation Gala. The black-tie event which included a cocktail reception and silent auction brought together politicians, socialites, community leaders, families, educators and supporters from around the world for an evening of celebration and awareness of global efforts to transform the lives of children and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing to listen, learn, talk and thrive in the mainstream. 

In attendance at the gala was Dr. Bell’s great-grandson, Gilbert M. Grosvenor, former president and chair of the National Geographic Society. AG Bell presented Grosvenor with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering leadership, service, and commitment to both the National Geographic Society and AG Bell. Grosvenor, who is chairman emeritus of the AG Bell foundation board of directors, was recognized for carrying forward Dr. Bell’s legacy and commitment to supporting listening and spoken language for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

A Star-Studded Event

The star-studded event drew luminaries who have contributed to their fields – and to the future of our children. Recently returning to the National Geographic Society was Richard Leakey, a famed Kenyan paleoanthropologist, conservationist, and political figure who has dedicated his career to discovering our past and preserving it for future generations. Lance Allred, the first NBA player who is deaf, shared the inspiring story of his indomitable spirit in overcoming numerous obstacles in pursuing a career in basketball. Elana LeQuatra told attendees that her passion to participate in pageants was ignited by former Miss America Heather Whitestone, who became a mentor a role model as LanceAllredElana became Miss Teen Pennsylvania in 2008 and second runner-up in the Miss Teen USA completion. Neil Maes, Scripps National Spelling Bee contestant, starred in a video highlighting the possibilities for children who are deaf today.

The event celebrated two U.S. Congressional representatives whose work has changed the future for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Reps. Lois Capps and Brett Guthrie were honored with the AG Bell Award of Distinction. Together, they co-authored co-authored the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act of 2015, which passed the House of Representatives unanimously last September. Capps is a longtime supporter of EHDI who played in instrumental role in the passage of the law. As a state senator, Guthrie helped pass the EHDI bill in Kentucky.

The Award of Distinction is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions on a local, national or international level to promote and address issues related to hearing loss. Past recipients include Senators Tom Harkin and Patrick Leahy; ABC news anchors Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson; and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy, among many others.

The gala was a celebration of the community efforts in the past, present and future in support of listening and spoken language. This community was first formed by Dr. Alexander Graham Bell when he founded the association, bringing together a community likeminded teachers. Adding inspiration, they were united in their dedication to teaching children who were deaf to talk and their belief that people who were deaf could live in the mainstream.