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On August 24, 1987, Gallaudet's 6th president, Dr. Jerry Lee, announced that he would be leaving the presidency of Gallaudet. It prompted new (or rekindled) discussion among the Deaf community that it is time for Gallaudet to have a Deaf president leading the one and only Deaf university in the world. The search committee narrowed down from 67 applicants to 3 finalists: Dr. Harvey Corson (Deaf), Dr. Elizabeth Zinser (hearing), and Dr. I. King Jordan (Deaf).
On March 6, 1988, it was expected that the board would announce the new 7th president in the field house at 8:30 pm. Instead of making a formal announcement, the audience was told that "a news release had been hastily distributed two hours earlier" revealing that Dr. Elizabeth Zinser has been selected as first 7th president of Gallaudet.
The reaction to the news was "met with shock, anger, disbelief, and, in some cases, tears" because every effort were made to the Gallaudet Board of Trustees with strong urgency that it is time for Gallaudet to have a Deaf president to lead the university. Upon the selection of Dr. Zinser, the birth of the now well-known Deaf President Now (DPN) protest officially began.