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PAUL M. CULTON, Ph.D. (1932 – Present) – DMC Original Board Secretary

Dr. Paul M. Culton is smiling softly, wearing glasses, business suit, shirt and tie. The photo is from his high school yearbook. On February 12, 1932 in the small town of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Paul M. Culton was born. His hometown is best known for the official ‘Zero’ starting point designated by President Abraham Lincoln for the transcontinental railroad (completed in 1869), which had become the fifth largest rail center in the United States at his birthplace. 

However, Culton had no aspirations or connection to said railroad, other than moving full-steam ahead to find his own career path through several train station stops taking him from Iowa to Minnesota and back, then to California.  While his small town had only grown in population to 45,000 people by the time he would start educational pursuits, he set his sights on acquiring an education in a place with an even smaller population, just over 29,000 people (in the 1950s) in Rochester, Minnesota. 

After he received his Ministerial B.A. Degree from Minnesota Bible College in 1955 (renamed Crossroads College in 2002), he was coincidentally at a crossroads himself.  Culton’s career trajectory changed when he made his way back home to Council Bluffs. He started his deaf education path as a teacher in language arts and guidance from 1956-1970 at Iowa School for the Deaf, while simultaneously pursuing an education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to acquire his Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education with a minor in Special Education and English Literature in 1965. 

This new path would serve him well, also working as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter in the Council Bluffs Iowa Public School System from 1960-1970 and as a member of the Active Democratic Century, Central Committee Pottawattamie County, Council Bluffs from 1960-1970.

During this time, he was so passionate about education, he even ran for the school board in 1965…

News clipping front page of the Council Bluffs Nonpareil Newspaper, Sunday 12, 1965 edition.  Paul Culton is pictured second from the right in a group of five men standing, all wearing suit and tie attire.  This group of five candidates were running for the school board

Culton, who was born as a hearing person, found his heart bursting with passion when he saw a growing need as a sign language interpreter inside of schools, courtrooms, and conventions. His variety of experience led him to becoming passionate about the psychological and sociological effects of deafness. He acquired his Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Comprehensive Skills Certificate and Legal Specialist Certificate. From here he stayed busy doing ASL interpretation at the Conference of Executives of American School for the Deaf Class A, State of Iowa Deaf and Hard of Hearing K-14, and Iowa 7-14 English and Social Studies.

From leading a Boy Scout troop to working various conventions, meetings and conferences, Culton wanted to provide access for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

His hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa kept track of nearly every endeavor of his life, proud of their hometown hero for the deaf and hard of hearing community. From working in the local courts as an ASL Interpreter, to educator and even director of all the theatrical productions at Iowa School for the Deaf, Culton left no stone unturned locally. As much as he loved his hometown, he felt the tug to do more, and grow the impact of what he could do outside of his home state. He received a grant to head to California, the Golden State.

 Pictured a ‘shout-out’ to Professor Paul Culton from Iowa School for the Deaf announcing his departure from Iowa and move to California, mentioning his next chapter in education/teaching

Even though he stayed busy, Culton didn’t stay put. He pursued an education in California’s San Fernando Valley, earning Master of Arts, California State University, Northridge, in Supervision and Administration of Education (National Leadership Training Program).

In 1970, he would go further South and West, to Surf City USA and make his way toward Huntington Beach, California where he would be finally want to stay to put down some roots for a longer period of time in the largest population (115,960 in 1970) he had ever known in his adult life. It is here where he had accepted a job at Golden West College (GWC) whose educational recruitment tagline was “Go West.” Here he would spend most of his time as an Educational Specialist, then Director, in the Disabled Students Program. At the time in 1970, GWC was only one in five college deaf programs in the United States.  After five years of being here, Culton would discover GWC’s pioneering efforts would expand to about one hundred similar programs across the nation.

Exposure to his new lifestyle and huge crowds would excite Culton, inspiring the need to revisit the conference scene. He would take on becoming Editor of Proceedings, Region IX Conference for Coordinating Rehabilitation and Education Services for the Deaf in 1970 and Editor of Proceedings, National TRIPOD Conference, 1971.

Like his GWC fellow Deaf Counselor, Educator and DMC Board Member friend Geno M. Vescovi, Culton would also keep a pen close by, writing articles throughout his education career journey.

From his early thesis to his professional writings, he dedicated himself to creating conference materials, trying to improve understanding through his work. Publications include:  A Study of the Validity and Reliability of the Comprehensive Skills – Certificate Evaluation for Sign Language Interpreters; to his work with Cal State Northridge – A Vocabulary Guide for Parents of Preschool Deaf Children; Proceedings: Regional IX Conference for Coordinating Rehabilitation and Education Services for the Deaf (October 26-28, 1970); Francisco Torres Conference Center, Santa Barbara, California; Question and Answers, which he co-wrote with J. Sulliven and William C. Hill; and finally a publication to cover an entire study and standard for Deaf Students in Community Colleges.    

INSERT PDF from 1975:

He kept busy at GWC, with his role as an instructor 1971-1982, then 1982-1988 as a counselor.  Just like Vescovi, Golden West College celebrated Culton for his Meritorious Service.

GWC had a TV station on campus called KOCE-TV Channel 50 which was later acquired by PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). Culton became the ASL interpreter for KOCE-TV programs including Jim Cooper’s Orange County and the Voter’s Pipeline series shining a spotlight on issues for the disabled, catapulting him into higher visibility.

Paul M. Culton is the ASL interpreter on these PBS programs archived in the Library of Congress:   Voter’s Pipeline –Featuring Dayle McIntosh Center’s Brenda Premo and Paula Margeson  Featuring Dayle McIntosh Center’s Brenda Premo

Culton understood the physiological, social, and deep-rooted fundamental differences of hearing parents vs. deaf parents raising deaf children. He believed in what was possible to overcome through education, whether it was diving deeply into deaf culture or examining social conditioning and environmental barriers to achieving maximum potential in attaining a full live in a silent world.  Culton always believed in encouraging all of his students and also educated other teachers and business professionals about growing and supporting ‘maximum potential’ for change.

Newspaper clipping on a historic event held and hosted by Saddleback College, November 1980 – printed by the OC Register where 70+ deaf students gathered and Paul Culton participated at the conference “Sign Day.”  Paul is featured in a series of photographs with the article signing – presenting the history of American Sign Language).

PHOTO CAPTION:  Saddleback College Conference “SIGN DAY” held in 1980 featured Paul Culton presenting and signing at the conference sharing the history of American Sign Language. The conference also featured Etta Stecker, who headed Deaf Services at DMC for a couple of years.

Education wasn’t Culton’s only passion. He loved the arts and dedicated himself to being an ASL Interpreter for concerts, theatrical stage productions and he even made opera music accessible for the deaf community to enjoy as they felt the vibration of live performances. Working for years at his craft, he interpreted Polynesian cultural dance performances by Alohi making their performance accessible through swaying movements.  The Alohi Center shared that Culton learned the English lyrics of Hawaiian songs to interpret for their annual deaf services fundraising events supporting their arts and advocacy charity benefactor concerts and dance showcases to raise funds for the deaf community. Culton carried out this similar work throughout his career and in the Valley State Leadership Training Program in the Area of the Deaf. He was an officer of the Long Beach Gay Men’s Chorus group with the intention of doing the same for concert performances.

His studies further helped develop programs based on potential without limitations, with the exception of lip-reading where he believed this was a sector of deaf culture that Working three careers as a counselor, educator, interpreter, Culton directed several interpreter workshops in California and helped write first Captioned Films Study Guide.  Culton also spent time as an Interpreter for various state and federal courts throughout thirty years of his career from Iowa to California, becoming the Principal Writer of a classification system, according to the skills of Certified Courtroom Interpreters in languages.  Culton also became the official trainer for California Community Colleges in establishing postsecondary programs for the physically handicapped. He was an essential committee member who set standards for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf certificates of competence, also helping to establish standards for certifying teachers of Sign language in Southern California.

During summer breaks from Golden West College, Culton didn’t stay idle. In 1973, he was an Assistant Professor in ASL interpreting at Cal State Northridge.  He worked as an Assistant Professor, Administration of postsecondary educational programs for disabled students at California State University Fresno in 1976 and Dominguez Hills. In the spring of 1977, he worked as a visiting professor for Special Education for the University of Guam to assist with the improvement of classes and services for hearing impaired students in Guam Public Schools.   

He accomplished many milestones through education, counseling and interpreting, as Chairman of the Conference of Executives of American Schools for the Deaf for four years; the Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf; California Association of Postsecondary Educators of the Disabled (Past Treasurer, founding Vice President); Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and held the position of Past President on Southern California Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Working as a member for the California Association of the Physically Handicapped, he then went on to be Past Vice President for the Greater Los Angeles Council Deafness. 

Dayle McIntosh Center’s Co-Founder and first Executive Director Brenda Premo had Culton as a professor when she was a student at Golden West College. She recruited Culton to become The Dayle McIntosh Center’s founding Secretary on the Board of Directors. It is because of Culton and Vescovi (DMC’s VP) that DMC was able to create, develop and grow the Deaf Services program in 1981. Culton’s ASL Interpreting skills accompanied Premo at numerous events where DMC had presence, and later he would do the same for Paula Margeson at various community representation outreach programs and DMC media opportunities.

Culton went on to work as a counselor at El Camino College, in Torrance, California, 1990-1993; then went on to become their acting associate dean, while simultaneously working as El Camino’s counselor 1993-1997.  In 2006, He went on to work as a Professor for the First Global Community College in Nong Khai Thailand, then returned to the U.S. to work as a Deaf Counselor and Professor at Cal State University Los Angeles and has since retired.

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