A man who lost his hearing as a child and became a leading educator of the deaf and a pioneer of studies of deaf culture has died. Robert Panara was 94.

Longtime friend and colleague Harry Lang says Panara died of natural causes Sunday at the Rochester, New York, nursing home where he lived.

His career included teaching at Gallaudet University and the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he was a founder of the school's National Technical Institute for the Deaf. He also was a founder of the National Theater of the Deaf in Connecticut in the 1960s.

When he retired from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in 1987, the college named its theater after him and created a scholarship fund in his honor.