Davila Day School had a surprise visit this week from the celebrated individual for whom the school is named: Dr. Robert Davila.
Davila, who grew up in Carlsbad and has had a successful career in education and politics, returned to the school for the first time since 2013. He first visited the school when it opened in 2009.
The school, operated by the South County Special Education Local Plan Area in affiliation with the San Diego County Office of Education, serves approximately 40 students who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Davila visited several classrooms, talked about being from San Diego County, and fielded questions from students during his visit.
“It was just so exciting to meet him in person,” said Principal Heidi Lyon. “Such a personable, sweet, nice man, who is so humble and so approachable. You could tell he truly, genuinely loves kids.”
According to Lyon, the school was named for Davila after the former principal researched individuals influential in the Deaf community, and staff members voted on Davila.
Lyon asked Davila how it felt when he first learned that a school would be named after him. He said he wasn’t sure the request was for real.
“I thought it was a joke,” Davila said. “Not many people know about the school, but I’m so proud of it. I grew up here in Carlsbad, and it’s an honor to have the school named after me.”
Davila lost his hearing when he was 8 years old as the result of a severe case of spinal meningitis. His mother decided to put him on a train to Berkeley to attend the California School for the Deaf. After graduating from that school, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet University, a master’s from Hunter College, and a doctorate from Syracuse University.
He enjoyed a more than 55-year-career in education, serving as a teacher in various grade levels, college professor, principal, assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the U.S. Department of Education, president of Gallaudet University, and chief executive office of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.
To this day, Davila remains the only deaf individual to be appointed to that high of a government position.