His death was announced in a statement by Washington-based Gallaudet, which called him “an elder statesman of the Gallaudet and Deaf communities.” He had recently been hospitalized for a lung infection, said his daughter, Carol A. Padden, a communication professor at the University of California at San Diego.
Mr. Padden taught physical education classes for more than four decades at Gallaudet, the nation’s premier university for the deaf and hard of hearing. A former standout athlete and graduate of the school, he was known as the last surviving member of the Five Iron Men, a Gallaudet basketball squad that attained postseason glory in 1943 despite a last-place finish during the regular season.
For years, he welcomed young men to campus as the school’s “hygiene” instructor, charged with delivering a crash course in nutrition, wellness and sex education as part of a curriculum that aimed to offer an education in adulthood as well as the liberal arts. He also had stints as the men’s basketball coach and director of the intramural program, where he encouraged women to participate in sports long before Title IX banned sex discrimination in collegiate athletics.
But like certain professors scattered across the country, instructors whose names are little known outside of the campuses where they spend their days, Mr. Padden was admired less for any singular academic accomplishment than for the years he spent offering gentle advice and encouragement to those who crossed his path.
“What is remarkable about him is his total dedication to furthering the lot of the deaf of all ages,” the Gallaudet Tower Clock wrote in 1974, dedicating the school yearbook to Mr. Padden. “He does not concentrate on one level, nor does he confine education to the classroom. He has worked, and still works out of sheer heart, with small children, teenagers, college students and with the older crowd. No person who comes into contact with him is forgotten; he keeps track of them all, exhorts them on to bigger things, and takes pride in their accomplishments.”