Sue Thomas, a deaf woman who worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and inspired the PAX TV series “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye,” will speak on the Maryville College campus at 7 p.m. Monday, March 7, in the Lawson Auditorium of Fayerweather Hall.
Sponsored by the College’s Sigma Lambda Kappa (SLK) student organization for deaf studies and sign language majors, the event is free and open to the public and kicks off the College’s observation of Deaf History Month.
A sign language interpreter will be provided for the deaf and hearing impaired.
In her presentation, “Behind the Scenes with Sue Thomas,” Thomas is expected to share stories from her life as a deaf woman and how she became an expert lip reader - a skill that landed her in an elite undercover surveillance unit of FBI in Washington, D.C. She worked for the bureau from 1979 until 1983.
According to Morgan Haynes, an American Sign Language/Deaf Studies major and SLK president, many people will recognize Thomas from the TV series, which originally aired from 2002 until 2005. Now in syndication, “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye” is watched by millions of viewers in 60 countries.
A native of Boardman, Ohio, Thomas lost her hearing when she was 18 months old. The only deaf child in her public school district, she spent years working with speech therapists to develop her voice. But she was often misunderstood by teachers and mistreated by her peers. Despite those difficulties, she graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts with a degree in political science and international affairs.
Following her career with the FBI, Thomas became a sought-after inspirational Christian speaker and has addressed audiences ranging from one hundred to 45,000 people.
In 1990, she authored her autobiography, “Silent Night.” She updated it in 2010. “Operation Silent Night” is an outreach ministry for the homeless that she started in 2004. Thomas is also in the planning stages of building a hearing dog training center called “The Kennels of Levi.”
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, Thomas has begun to inspire other populations of people. “We are excited to have Sue Thomas here in person and get to hear her stories that remind us to pursue our dreams without limits,” Haynes said, adding that many of the college’s American Sign Language and Interpreting majors will be in attendance.
Maryville College is believed to be the first college or university in the United States to award the bachelor’s degree with a major in Sign Language Interpreting. The program of study began in 1974 and since then has become nationally recognized. In the last 20 years, nearly all Maryville College interpreting majors who have pursued interpreting jobs have obtained them.
For more information on the March 7 presentation, contact Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org.