Meet a Member: Ralph Guertin proves that deafness is no obstacle

Name: Ralph Francis Guertin.

Ralph Guertin, who lost his hearing at age 7, became a renowned physicist and engineer who developed a mathematical formula that improves the ability of a missile to hit its target. He is shown in this photo from 2012 with his granddaughter.

Where I live: Green Valley, Ariz.

Where and when I was born: Stafford, Conn., in 1938. My parents were living in Indian Orchard, Mass. (a suburb of Springfield), and that is where I grew up.

Family: My wife, Nu Nu Mae, died last year. She was a native of Myanmar (Burma) and was teaching the Burmese language at Yale when I met her. We were married for 50 years. My daughter and granddaughter live in Massachusetts.

Education: Clarke School for the Deaf (now Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech) in Northampton, Mass.; Classical High School in Springfield, Mass.; B.S. in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Ph.D. in physics from Yale University.

Occupation: Retired as a physicist/engineer. Last worked for Raytheon in Arizona. Company was awarded a patent that includes an advanced mathematical formula I developed which can improve the ability of a missile to hit its target.

Person in history I admire and why: Albert Einstein, due to his theory of relativity.

A quotation I like: “The one who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the one who is doing it.” — Chinese proverb. I included it in a speech I gave at a Clarke School graduation that included a criticism of those who claim that deaf children cannot communicate well via speech and that they should be educated with sign language.

These are a few of my favorite things: Physics and advanced mathematics, baseball (I’m a Boston Red Sox fan), basketball, which was founded in my home city of Springfield, Mass., and chess.

These are not: People who say I’m headed for hell and try to get me to adopt their religion. By the way, my parents raised me as a Catholic and were shocked when I told them that God was a fiction and I was not going to church any more.

My doubts about religion started: While I was at Worcester Polytechnic and became firm after a few months at Yale University.


Clarke alumnus, engineer and physicist gives back

Ralph Guertin was profiled in the 2012 issue of Clarke Speaks magazine, the publication of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. It is reprinted with permission:

Ralph Guertin, ’53, has led a life of extraordinary accomplishment. After losing his hearing at the age of 7 due to meningitis and measles, Ralph graduated from Clarke and went on to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and Yale University, where he earned a Ph.D. in physics. His distinguished career has encompassed work in academia, government, and the corporate world, including positions at the University of Nijmegen, the Middle East Technical University, Rice University, the University of California at Berkeley, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

Among his numerous professional achievements is a mathematical algorithm that is a key component of a patent associated with a sophisticated defense system. An inveterate traveler, Ralph has visited England, Portugal, France, Turkey and the Straits of Gibraltar on his many trips around the globe — but Clarke Northampton holds a special place in his heart. “I loved the high-quality academic programs, particularly science, math, and history, which prepared me well for a challenging academic career learning alongside hearing students. I remember enjoying the many active discussions we used to have about national and world events, both inside and outside of the classroom. I was also inspired by the achievements of Clarke School’s alumni.”

Ralph served on Clarke’s Board of Trustees from 1984 to 2004 and was the speaker at Clarke’s 1984 graduation ceremony.

Now settled in Arizona with his wife, Nu Nu Mae, Ralph’s generous annual contributions are a way of giving back to the school.

“I believe strongly in providing deaf children with the opportunity to attend Clarke and benefit from its exceptional teaching staff,” said Ralph. “Clarke makes it possible for individuals who are deaf to realize their potential in a society where most people can hear. I want other children to benefit from Clarke by learning to communicate via spoken language, as well as to benefit from the knowledgeable Clarke teaching staff who encourage each child to succeed.”