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Dr. Norm Tully, Deaf Education Pioneer

Dr. Norm Tully sitting at desk in the 1980s.

As a son, brother, uncle, teacher, influencer, mentor, colleague, and friend, Dr. Norman “Norm” Lee Tully touched countless lives and will be remembered by all who had the privilege of knowing him as an accomplished, loyal, compassionate, and humble individual. A St. Augustine, FL native, he graduated from St. Joseph Academy in 1947.

Dr. Tully earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Florida, followed by service in the U.S. Navy (1951-1953). Upon his return to St. Augustine, his friend and colleague Dr. McCay Vernon encouraged him to accept a job as a substitute teacher at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. After earning a master’s degree in education at Gallaudet University, Dr. Tully taught at the New Mexico School for the Deaf and later the California School for the Deaf. In 1960, he returned to NMSD to serve as assistant principal. Three years later he became an assistant professor in the department of special education and rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee in 1963.

Continuing his pursuit of knowledge, Dr. Tully earned a master’s degree in educational administration from what is now California State University at Northridge. He subsequently became an assistant professor in the department of special education and rehabilitation counseling at the University of Arizona, where he completed his doctoral degree in rehabilitation administration. He then returned to Gallaudet University in 1971 as a tenured professor and the founding chair of the department of counseling. From 1981 to 1987, Dr. Tully served as administrator for planning and evaluation for the National Center on Deafness (NCOD) at California State University at Northridge.

During his distinguished career, Dr. Tully was a member of over 25 professional organizations in addition to serving as a consultant for numerous governmental and educational agencies. He also published dozens of academic articles and other literature in the field. He contributed to the advancement of the field of deaf education and counseling by presenting research findings and best practices at national and international conferences.

Though he would never take credit for his accomplishments, Dr. Tully’s passion for and contributions to the field of deaf education were applauded by many.

FSDB President Dr. Jeanne Glidden Prickett said, “Norm has been special to my husband and me for decades, and especially more so since we moved to St. Augustine in 2012. Many who have known and loved him over the years have asked about him, including his first students at NMSD who are now in their 70s. My husband, Dr. Hugh Prickett (who worked with Dr. McCay Vernon for 19 years at Western Maryland College), my mother Elizabeth Glidden and I extend our sincere condolences to Norm’s family. He was an amazing professional in the field of deaf education, a man of great wisdom and quiet but powerful leadership, and a beloved friend.”

“His legacy is that of a giant, having contributed immeasurably to the lives of deaf Americans and those who had the good fortune to know and be associated with him,” said Nancy Bloch, a Gallaudet University alumna and executive director of communications and public relations at FSDB.

Joe Finnegan, a former colleague and owner of the St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine, equated him to “a quiet legend in deaf education,” and attributes the progress of generations of educators to the groundwork laid by Dr. Tully and his peers at Gallaudet.

Dr. Tully was awarded the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association (ADARA) Boyce Williams Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Rehabilitation of the Deaf, and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Knights of the Flying Fingers Award for Distinguished Service. In 2014, he was inducted into the Gallaudet University Hall of Fame for his vision and leadership.

In retirement, Dr. Tully returned to his hometown where he reconnected with old friends playing golf, attended the St. Augustine Sports Club, and walked the beach with his adopted canine companions. A true “people person,” he made new friends wherever he went. He cherished time spent with the people he loved, and he took a genuine interest in his friends’ and family members’ lives. He never relinquished his role as a practitioner and advocate. Even as he approached the end of his life, Dr. Tully continued to stay involved in the field of deaf education, maintaining his relationships with former colleagues and students across the country including FSDB and Flagler College. He was a man with a deep concern for bettering the lives of the disabled, and he dedicated his career to it with humility and compassion.

Dr. Tully is survived by his sister-in-law Patricia C. Tully; his nieces, Teresa (Dail) Taylor, Celia Tully, and Donna (Josh) Ellis; nephews Duane Tully, Barry Tully, Carl (Krista) Turner and Thomas (Carolina) Turner; seven great-nieces and great-nephews and one great-great-niece. Services were held on Monday, July 9, 2018 in St. Augustine. Memorial contributions may be sent to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Bailey Family Center for Caring.


About FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904.827.2212 voice or 904.201.4527 videophone. For more information, visit


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