CHESTER, Conn. — National Theater of the Deaf founder David Hays has been chosen to receive Harvard U.’s 1999 Harvard Arts Medal.

Hays, who is also a Broadway and ballet set and lighting designer, will be presented with the medal by Harvard president Neil Rudenstine on May 8 as part of Arts First ’99, the seventh annual celebration of the arts at Harvard and Radcliffe.

The annual Harvard Arts Medal was created five years ago to honor distinguished Harvard and Radcliffe alumni and faculty who have achieved excellence in the arts and made a special contribution through the arts to the public good or education. Previous honorees are Jack Lemmon, Pete Seeger, Bonnie Raitt and John Updike.

Hays graduated from Harvard in ’52, founded the NTD in 1967 and was its director until 1996. Having performed in all 50 U.S. states and every continent except Antarctica, the Chester, Conn.-based company has served as the model in the creation of more than 40 theaters of the deaf nationally and internationally.

On Broadway, Hays designed the sets for more than 50 productions, notably the original 1956 production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” He also designed more than 30 ballets for George Balanchine and his New York City Ballet.