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 Davila Students Welcome School's Namesake

Students at Davila Day School in Chula Vista got a surprise visitor Thursday: their school’s namesake.

Robert Davila, who grew up in Carlsbad and had a successful career in education and politics, returned to the school for the first time since he visited when it opened five years ago.

The school, operated by the San Diego County Office of Education, serves between 30 and 60 students each year who are deaf or hard of hearing. It shares a campus with Vista Square Elementary School.

The children were excited to see Davila, recognizing him from his picture, which sits on the wall right next to the president’s.

“They see that every day,” said Christina Neal, coordinator and principal at the school. “He’s kind of a celebrity.”

Davila serves as an inspiration for the students, since he has been so successful and is also deaf, Neal said.

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. At the time, there weren’t programs for deaf children locally and public schools weren’t required to offer special services to students with disabilities, Davila said.

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 57-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.

Of all of the honors he has received over the years, he said having a school named after him is the best.

 “I’ve been fortunate to get recognition,” he said. “It makes me feel really emotional and very appreciative.”

Davila said he had hoped to make the visits annually, but has found it difficult to travel from his home near Washington D.C. that often.