2017 LEAD Together Conference Speaker Bios

Conference Opening Ceremonies and Reception Speaker:


Patrick Graybill is an internationally renowned, dearly beloved, and consummate actor and director, teacher, poet, storyteller and iconic American Sign Language role model. He is known for his work as an actor with the National Theatre of the Deaf between 1969-1979, and as a consultant, theater director, actor, poet and teacher at Rochester Institute of Technology and its National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts Program.

Patrick Graybill was born into a wonderful family of seven children, five of who were deaf, and went to the Kansas School for the Deaf. After earning an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Education from Gallaudet University he enrolled at Catholic University of America to study theology. His pursuit of the priesthood was sidelined when he joined the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) as an actor in 1969. NTD, with Patrick in its company, won a Tony Award for Theatre Excellence in 1978.

In 1979 Patrick Graybill joined the Rochester Institute of Technology as artistic consultant to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts Program. In between his numerous acting roles and directing and teaching assignments Patrick completed his studies for his diaconate at St. Bernard’s Seminary and Institute in Rochester.

Even in his retirement, Patrick remains active as a Deacon in the Deaf Catholic church, he provides workshops for fellow clergy, interpreting students, and the Deaf community. He also lends his talents as an ASL role model on educational videos for students and has narrated portions of the New Testament in ASL—including the Gospels of Mark and Luke—for preservation on video. In 2005 Patrick Graybill was honored with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letter, from St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida.



Plenary Speakers:

Carla Shird headshot Carla Shird is a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and a member of the RID Diversity Council. She obtained her BS degree from Howard University in psychology and her MA degree in mental health counseling from Gallaudet University. She was a non-certified interpreter and support service provider (SSP) for 15+ years, received 30+ hours of specialized mentoring, and has been a CDI since 2013. Carla interprets in business, community, religious, and educational settings, with more than fifteen years interpreting experience in mental health settings. As a therapist, Carla has 15+ years of training and experience in mental health and substance abuse counseling with Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind clients. She is passionate about breaking down communication barriers and helping people who have experienced trauma. Her clinical expertise of providing mental health services, workshops, and training includes issues of microaggressions, audism, power and privilege, and oppression.
Jonathan Webb headshot Jonathan Webb, PhD, educator, activist, and author of KG: The South, is currently a lecturer in the Department of World Languages & Cultures at Iowa State University, where he was invited to create and build a program in American Sign Language, as well as foster greater inclusion for Deaf students across campus. Jonathan’s work in seeking social justice is born out of a lived experience that started in his home community of Jennings/Ferguson, MO. Currently, living in Southern California with partner and three kids, he continues to write on themes of spirituality, consciousness, and social justice. Additionally, Jonathan has been invited to campuses around the country to teach on systems of oppression and navigating them through the use of visioning and conscious dialogue. As an ASL interpreter with over two decades in the field and three decades of language, and a Deaf Educator trained in counseling and American Sign Language acquisition/development, he provides interpretation in often high stakes situations and in particular with monolingual ASL Deaf people. Working within national non-profits, higher education, and local associations, Jonathan is recognized for his ability to not only foster critical consciousness around complex issues, but to catalyze that consciousness into effective action and measurable outcomes. He welcomes eager, openminded, questioning, inquisitive participants to the workshops he facilitates, and aims to inspire individuals and groups to live and work in their most expansive, liberated and conscious form possible.
Wing Butler headshot

Wing Butler has been a passionate advocate for the Deaf community since before he can remember. Growing up with two loving deaf parents, he was bilingual in English and ASL when he was just knee-high. Eventually he became an ASL-English interpreter.

Today Wing is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and management professional with over 15 years of experience. He’s organized and lead high-performing teams at Purple Communications, Inc, DeafTV, and Signing Resources. He is now the Director of Sales at GoReact, a company that specializes in improving interpreter education through cloud-based video software. As a businessman, Wing actively seeks opportunities to build the sign language and Deaf economy. He’s a frequent contributor to the publication StreetLeverage, and he has served on the RID Executive Board as Treasurer. Wing continues to use his business connections, his interpreting experience, and his social media know-how to integrate sign language into the national business community.

When Wing isn’t in the office, he can usually be found fishing, playing volleyball barefoot, or spending time with his five children and amazing wife.

Heather Harker headshot

Heather Harker serves as Chief of Staff in the Office of Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano. She provides high level administrative leadership, working closely with and advising the President’s Executive Team to ensure implementation and communication of university activities. She also serves as a liaison to internal and external organizations on behalf of the president including Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, federal government agencies, higher education institutions and agencies, external committees, and media organizations. Harker began serving her duties on May 31, 2016.

Previously, Harker served as chair of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees from October 2014 to April 2016 and is known as a strategic thinker, facilitator, and communicator who provided solid leadership. Harker served on the board from 2009 to 2016.

Professionally, Harker was most recently director of programs at Third Sector New England (TSNE), which focuses on building power, knowledge, and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations. Prior to her 15 years with TSNE, Harker was a teaching fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and received an award for teaching excellence.

Harker’s previous positions include being assistant director of the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, focusing on policy development, advocacy, and program development. During that time, she participated in the three-year Kellogg International Leadership Program which brought together 60 leaders and community change-makers from the United States, southern Africa, and Latin America. She also served as a consultant for Northern Essex Community College and the Center for Social Policy and McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts.

Harker has been a fellow with Discovering Deaf Worlds, which was focused on cross-cultural learning and capacity building in the Philippines. She has served as chair and member on the boards of The Learning Center for the Deaf and DEAF, Inc. Harker held an Echoing Green fellowship for social entrepreneurship, which took her to Malaysia to work with the deaf community to establish a public health workshop series, English as a Second Language programs, and a summer youth leadership camp, and to give herself the opportunity to teach in schools for deaf students.

Harker earned her undergraduate degree in International Relations from Brown University in 1992, and a Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard University in 2000.


2017 LEAD Together Conference Teaching Teams

Eileen Forestal & Alicia McClurkan
Topic: Message Coherence

Patricia Lessard & Marlon Kuntze
Topic: Spatial Structuring/Discourse Mapping

Randee Pascall-Speights & Miako Rankin
Topic: Depiction in ASL

Sarah Hafer & Wanda Riddle
Topic: ASL Semantics

Pauline Ballentine & Tamar Nelson
Topic: Achieving Semantic Equivalence

Brian Cerney & Anna Cerney
Topic: Receptive Fingerspelling