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The history of Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis and the contributions of former students

Bob Brody (L) and Robin Feder (R)
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio
Bob Brody (L) and Robin Feder (R)

The Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) in St. Louis has been serving deaf children throughout the country for more than one hundred years.

“It was founded in 1914 by an ear, nose, and throat doctor in St. Louis, Dr. Max Goldstein,” said Robin Feder, CID’s executive director who previously taught at the school. “He had gone to Europe and seen deaf children being taught to talk there and thought he wanted to bring that new educational philosophy back to St. Louis.”

CID is different than most schools for deaf children in that teachers do not teach sign language.

“At our school we teach the children to listen and we teach them to talk,” Feder said. “We have all of our children wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, and we teach them to use the little bit of hearing that they have to the best of their ability.

“We train their ears and really train their brains to understand the sounds that they're hearing and to make sense of them,” she said.

One child who greatly benefited from his time at CID was Lee Brody, who attended the school from 1931-1941. His son, Bob Brody, a public relations executive and author from New York City, has written about his father.

“He told me that he came to St. Louis on a train.” Bob Brody told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh.

Brody’s father was only five years old when he was sent to St. Louis by himself under the watchful eye of a porter. His family couldn’t afford to accompany their son to St. Louis and midway through Brody’s schooling in the 1930s, he had to return home to public school for one year because his parents ran out of money.

A letter they wrote to CID founder, Dr. Goldstein, however, pleading the family’s financial situation allowed Brody to return and finish his schooling at reduced tuition costs.

Although today it costs CID about $50,000 per year to teach one child, the school doesn’t turn away students due to an inability to pay. That’s in large thanks to donors who support CID’s mission.

“[My father] told me that the education he received at CID was invaluable,” Brody said.

Lee Brody gave back to the deaf community. He developed a kind of TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf) technology that made it possible for deaf people to communicate over the phone.

That technology has largely been phased out as a preferred method of communication due to email. Technology also has had a profound impact on the deaf community in the way of hearing aids and cochlear implants. In addition, many states – including Missouri and Illinois – have laws that require newborn babies get a hearing screening.

“We saw a little boy this morning who is five months old,” Feder said, stressing the importance of early intervention.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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