Teacher and priest

Daily Reading for August 27 • Thomas Gallaudet, 1902, with Henry Winter Syle, 1890

Mr. Syle was born, November 9th, 1846, in Shanghai, China, where his father was stationed as a missionary. When in his fifth year, he was sent to America, on account of his health. At the age of six, he lost his hearing from scarlet fever. His education, which was carried on in the private school of Mr. D. E. Bartlett, at Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., and at St. John’s College, Cambridge, England, was interrupted more than once, and by various causes; but whenever he studied, he won high distinction. He took his Bachelor’s degree at Yale, in 1869, by the unusual and very trying course of presenting himself for a vigorous written examination in all the branches of the four years’ curriculum, which he passed with the highest credit. For five years, he taught in the New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, pursuing meanwhile a course of professional study in the Columbia College School of Mines.

Leaving New York, he received an appointment as assayer in the Philadelphia Mint, and, while holding this position, pursued a course of theological study, preparing himself for the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in which he was ordained priest in 1887. He resigned his position at the Mint, to devote himself to religions work among the deaf, and, as the nucleus of this work, he gathered a congregation which, under his ministrations, grew into an independent church. His field of labor expanded in many directions, until his time and strength, freely expended, were largely overdrawn, and an attack of the epidemic influenza found him with no vital force left to resist its attack. . . .

It is not too much to say, that in point of scholarship and literary culture he was easily first among the deaf persons of this country, and perhaps of the world. Every ambition common to noble minds he shared—the love of distinction, the consuming thirst for knowledge, the desire for association with his intellectual peers; but his crowning glory is this, that he unhesitatingly sacrificed every one of these, as well as all less exalted aims, whenever they conflicted with the ruling purpose of his life. . . . As philanthropy underlay his studies, his social activities and his professional work, so a sincere but unostentatious piety inspired and pervaded his philanthropy. No more brilliant intellect, no more strenuous will, no purer soul has ever adorned our profession.

From a paper presented by Professor Weston Jenkins on the life of Henry Winter Syle, in Proceedings of the Eleventh National Convention of American Instructors of the Deaf, held at Berkeley, California, July 1886.

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