Kester Marsh will be able to hear the crowd sing Kansas University's alma mater at commencement Sunday. Most of his family will not.
Marsh's wife, parents and son are deaf. He's graduating with a master's degree in deaf education.
"I grew up around deafness my whole life, and I just want to educate people about it," he said.
Marsh, 30, already teaches American Sign Language at Free State High School, at a program he created five years ago. He's working toward his goal of earning a doctorate and leading a school for the deaf.
Marsh considers English his second language. He could sign before he could speak aloud.
His father, Charles Marsh, is deaf as a result of a genetic defect. His mother, Kathy Marsh, lost her hearing to German measles as an infant. The couple live in Olathe.
Marsh's parents relied on him to broker car deals and buy insurance.
"I picked up my oral skills from TV and the neighbors," Marsh said.
His parents taught him sign language just as hearing parents teach their children English.
"If (my parents) were hearing and I was hearing, it wouldn't have been any different," he said.
Marsh and his wife, Robyn, have been friends since childhood. He said communicating by sign language made them closer.
"I had relationships with hearing girls, and it wasn't the same," he said. "When you're signing, you can't hide. You have to be face to face."
The couple's 3-year-old son, Aryzona Sting, is deaf. His middle name pays tribute to the couple's favorite singer. They ripped out the carpet in their house so Robyn can feel the vibrations of music while Kester signs the lyrics.
Aryzona started signing before he was a year old. The bigger challenge is the couple's 8-month-old daughter, Tymber, who will need to learn both sign language and speaking to communicate with her family and the rest of the world.
Marsh said he wasn't sure how to ensure Tymber would develop skills in both areas.
"My life would've been easier if my daughter were deaf," Marsh said. "Her life is going to be easier since she's hearing."
Marsh said it was important for him to teach not only sign language but deaf culture in his classes. He said many people assumed deaf people were stupid because they couldn't hear.
"They view deafness as a disability," he said. "Deaf people see themselves as a cultural minority. They only thing deaf people can't do is hear."