Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano’86 is one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year
An advocate for access, inclusion, diversity, and social justice, Bobbi Cordano joins the ranks of other USA TODAY’s Women of the Year honorees, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, former supreme court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and astronaut Nicole Mann.
Cordano, the first deaf woman and openly LGBTQ person to lead Gallaudet University, says deafness is not a disability.
“When we come into the world, we show up perfect. We are perfect just exactly the way we are,” Cordano told USA TODAY.
As a child, Cordano focused her sights on being a lawyer, but with societal norms at the time that “deaf people couldn’t be lawyers,” her parents didn’t think a law school would accept her as a Gallaudet grad, their alma mater, for deaf and hard of hearing students.
So Cordano took their advice and chose Beloit College, to help her beat the odds. “They told me to pick a liberal arts college, something similar to Gallaudet, that was small, where I could be successful,” Cordano remembers in a 2016 Beloit College magazine interview.
At Beloit, she mentored a deaf first-year student who didn’t speak sign language, showing a lifelong drive Cordano has to create opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people.
Cordano graduated from Beloit with a sociology degree and was only the 17th deaf person in the U.S. to earn a law degree, when she completed her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1990.
She was the first deaf woman to be named president of Gallaudet University in 2016. USA TODAY honored her for advancing equity and dismantling inequalities like racism on campus.
Accepting an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Beloit College’s 2017 Commencement, Cordano encouraged graduating seniors. “I’m calling on each of you to be the leaders, the innovators, and the change-makers of this world,” she said. “That’s what Beloit made me.”
An advocate for access, inclusion, diversity, and social justice, Cordano joins the ranks of other USA TODAY’s Women of the Year honorees, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and astronaut Nicole Mann.