dennis cokely

Dennis Cokely

This translation corpus is named in honor of the late Dennis R. Cokely (1946 – 2018). Dennis will be remembered for his generosity, depth of knowledge, sense of caring, and for embracing and promoting the unique cultural and linguistic qualities of the Deaf community in America. His passion for the Deaf community began when he met a deaf individual while he was a seminary student, studying to become a priest. He fell in love with the language of the community: American Sign Language (ASL). He then immersed himself in the Deaf world.

Dennis was a true visionary and pioneer in the field of Deaf Studies and the ASL-English interpreter profession. His contributions to these areas are vast. He earned his doctorate in sociolinguistics from Georgetown University. He wrote dozens of scholarly articles and co-authored five textbooks with Charlotte Baker-Shenk on ASL, widely known in the field as “The Green Books.” His book, Interpretation: A Sociolinguistic Model which has been translated into German and excerpted into Swedish and Japanese, is widely used in the U.S. and Europe for interpreter education and has formed the foundation for formal diagnostic assessments of interpreters in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Dennis co-founded, Sign Media, Inc.,a video production company and publisher of curriculum and scholarly works. He has produced and/or directed over 250 video programs focusing on ASL, Deaf culture, and interpreter education. This includes the American Freedom Speeches DVD which forms the basis of the Dennis Cokely Translation Corpus.

Dennis worked for 15 years at Gallaudet University—the world’s only ASL-English bilingual university for deaf and hard of hearing students. Between 1983 and 1987, he served as president of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and was instrumental in revising and updating its certification and training process. In 1985, he served as director of a project funded by the Canadian government to develop a curriculum for interpreter education programs, which went on to become the model for such programs globally.

For 22 years, Dennis taught, researched, and served at Northeastern University as Professor of Cultures, Societies and Global Studies, and as the Director of the American Sign Language Program. In addition to leading many nationwide programs at Northeastern, he most recently established the Center for Atypical Language Interpreting with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to address the demand for interpreters with specialized skills to serve people who use atypical sign language.

Dennis’s awards include:

  • Mary Stotler Award, Conference of Interpreter Trainers (1989)
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Northeastern University (2002)
  • Outstanding Interpreter Educator Award, Massachusetts Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (2005)
  • National Treasure Award, Street Leverage (2017)

Dennis always endeavored to make a better world for Deaf people and the interpreters who support them.