The Braille Monitor                                                                                August/September, 2002

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The 2002 Awards

Presented by the National Federation of the Blind

 

Mary Willows, displaying her award, and Steve Benson
Mary Willows, displaying her award, and Steve Benson

From the Editor: National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention six presentations were made by the National Federation of the Blind, one by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, Inc., and one by the International Braille Research Center. The first four presentations took place during the board of directors meeting Friday morning, July 5. The first was presented by Steve Benson, who chairs the Blind Educator of the Year Selection Committee. This is what he said:

 

The Blind Educator of the Year Award

Thank you, President Maurer, and thank you, members of the selection committee--Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhof--for your contribution to this year's deliberation. The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented only to those whose talent, teaching skill, contribution to the education field, and demonstrated leadership in the community and in the National Federation of the Blind merit such singular recognition.

The recipient of this year's award teaches blind children whose cognitive level is a minimum of three years below their chronological age. She has done this for the past five years. During the previous six years she taught in regular classrooms and special education settings. She has earned the respect of her peers, administrators, and parents of the children she teaches.

The winner of the 2002 Blind Educator of the Year Award comes from Illinois. She met the NFB for the first time at the 1972 convention in Chicago. Shortly after that convention she moved to another state. Her involvement in the Federation emulates that of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer, for she has given unselfishly of her time, energy, and means. This year's honoree has advocated with parents of blind children. She has participated in numerous IEP meetings to make certain blind children get appropriate, quality education. She has testified on behalf of blind teachers; she has consulted with attorneys in our effort to ensure that blind people teach in a variety of classroom settings, and she has counseled many newly blind teachers, encouraging them to continue in their chosen profession.

The Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee has selected as this year's honoree, Mary Willows of California. While Mary is making her way to the platform, I will tell you that she earned bachelor's and master's degrees at San Francisco State University. She holds a special education credential called "Professional Clear Multiple Subjects Preschool through Adults," and she teaches at the California School for the Blind.

Mary has served as a chapter president for ten years. She is immediate past president of the National Organization of Blind Educators. She has also chaired the Committee on Parental Concerns. She directed NFB Camp for several years. In addition she has served as president of the Northern California Chapter of AER.

Mary, congratulations! Here is a check for $1,000 and a plaque that reads:

 

BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

National Federation of the Blind

presented to

 

Mary Willows

 

IN RECOGNITION OF OUTSTANDING ACCOMPLISHMENTS

IN THE TEACHING PROFESSION

YOU ENHANCE THE PRESENT

YOU INSPIRE YOUR COLLEAGUES

YOU BUILD THE FUTURE

 

JULY 5, 2002

 

Fellow Federationists, here is Mary Willows.

 

Thank you, Mr. Benson.This is far worse than my first day in the classroom. To receive such an award from the very people I admire most--I'm shaking; I can't even talk. I was really one of the lucky ones. As Mr. Benson said, I met the National Federation of the Blind when I was eighteen years old, so all of my life's decisions and choices about what I did with my life and what I did has been influenced and guided by the very people in this room. This is just mind-boggling. Thank you very much.

When I first started working at the California School for the Blind, I was asked to speak to a group of graduating students about the history of the NFB. As I was talking to the kids, I realized that, although the location had changed, I was doing what Dr. Newel Perry had done sixty or seventy years ago with Perry's boys. I was now working at the very place where all of this started. Thank you so much; this is just wonderful. I appreciate--it's an honor to receive this award, and it's a privilege to know all of you. Thank you.

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

 

Sharon Maneki  reads the text of the award from Braille while Debbi Head holds her plaque.
Sharon Maneki reads the text of the award from Braille while Debbi Head holds her plaque.

Later in the board meeting Sharon Maneki, who chairs the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, made her committee's presentation. Here is the way it happened:

 

Good morning fellow Federationists. The selection committee of Jacquilyn Billey, Allen Harris, Joyce Scanlan, and me are pleased indeed to present to you a distinguished educator of blind children. This award originated from a suggestion by our National Organization of Parents of Blind Children to recognize teachers in the vision field who truly have vision. This morning's recipient is someone who has been teaching for twenty-one years. Fourteen of those years have been at the Wentzville school district.

She does not limit her activities to the classroom, although the classroom is certainly very important to her. She has assisted young teens in getting part-time jobs. She serves on the advisory committee of the state rehabilitation council, and she serves on an education task force. By the way, she serves in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind. In case you don't know where the Wentzville school district is, it is [in] Missouri.

So the recipient of the award this year is Debbi Head. First of all, Debbi, I am going to present you with a check for $1,000. While Debbi is holding the plaque, I will read it for you.

 

The National Federation of the Blind honors

Debbi Head

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children

for your skill in teaching Braille

and other alternative techniques of blindness

for generously devoting extra time

to meet the needs of your students

and for inspiring your students to perform

beyond their expectations.

You champion our movement.

You strengthen our hopes.

You share our dreams.

July 2002

 

Congratulations, Debbi.

 

Ms. Head then responded:

Thank you very much Dr. Maurer, Board of Directors, Federationists, and especially my Missouri supporters. I am greatly honored to be here today and to have the opportunity to sit in on the convention. With the work we are doing in Missouri I think we are making some really good progress with our students. I greatly appreciate the chance to be here today. Thank you.

The Fredric K. Schroeder Award

Presented by

The National Blindness Professional Certification Board, Inc.

 

Roland Allen and James Omvig prepare to shake hands.
Roland Allen and James Omvig prepare to shake hands.

Sometime later during the board meeting Dr. Maurer called James Omvig, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, to the podium to make an important presentation and to announce the establishment of a new award. Mr. Omvig began by providing the background of this award and then made the first presentation. This is what he said:

 

The directors of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board are gratified to be here today and to have this opportunity to bestow our inaugural award for outstanding contributions to the field of travel training for the blind. As we thought about it--to come up with just the right name to attach to this signal honor--it occurred to us immediately that, among the blind of America, no name holds more weight or lends more prestige and credibility to an award in the field of orientation and mobility than that of Dr. Fred Schroeder. So it is a privilege of a very special order to present the very first Fredric K. Schroeder Award.

Although Fred Schroeder is one of today's giants in work with the blind and is greatly admired and loved by those who know him, I venture to say that many, even in this vast audience, would wonder at the naming of an O&M award for him. So what does Fred Schroeder have to do with Orientation and Mobility? Everything! Fred Schroeder was the very first blind American to be accepted in and graduate from a master's degree program at one of the old-line O&M university programs.

It is not, of course, remarkable at all that Fred graduated with high marks, earning a master's in O&M. He is extremely intelligent and highly motivated. What is remarkable is the facts and circumstances surrounding his matriculation into the O&M program at San Francisco State University and his subsequent efforts to become certified in the profession.

To give a little history, Fred's personal story is all too common among people who are blind in America. As a blind youngster he was deprived by the blindness system of the very training and attitudinal adjustment which would have empowered him. Instead of getting proper training, much of his early life was spent in hospitals undergoing surgeries--sixteen of them--in quest of vision. They didn't work.

Fred first met the National Federation of the Blind as a young man in the 1970's; and, as is the case with many of us, his life was changed forever. After he learned that he as a blind person could have a life, he attacked his future with passion. His undergraduate and graduate university work tells much about his spirit, character, and competence. He completed his undergraduate work, not in four years or five or six or even seven, but in two-and-a-half years, graduating magna cum laude. In graduate school he earned a dual master's degree--in both special education and O&M, graduating summa cum laude.

While working on his master's in special education, Fred decided he wanted to teach travel to other blind people, and Jim Nyman of the Nebraska state agency was willing to give him a chance, even though he had no formal training at the time. He later returned to California and finished the O&M work. It was while Fred and other blind pioneers were working in Nebraska that the concepts of nonvisual instruction and structured-discovery learning were defined.

At the very same time that pioneering work was being done by the blind, a vicious war was also being waged upon the blind by professionals serving them over the issue of blind O&M instructors. The good-old-boy powers-that-be of the day held fast to their tragedy view of blindness--that is, the notion that blindness means inferiority and incompetence. Since they thought of blind people as incompetent, it naturally followed in their minds that the blind were not at all suited to teach O&M, and the schools were closed to the blind.

One more factual piece of timing comes into play. Prior to the 1970's, the people running the university programs assumed they could keep the blind out with impunity, and they did. However, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act had been set in place in 1973, and it prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities by programs which received federal funds. This meant that university programs could not discriminate on the basis of disability. Fred made it known in the late 70's that he intended to get an O&M degree. So set on maintaining their position of superiority and control over the blind were these good old boys that they actually tried to persuade the heads of all of the O&M programs to stand as one on the position that sight is absolutely essential to teach O&M and that, therefore, even if the blind as a class were kept out, it could not be called discrimination.

Fortunately for Fred Schroeder and the blind of America, one program director who knew and respected Fred would not fall meekly and thoughtlessly into line. He was Pete Wurzburger of San Francisco State. Pete admitted Fred into his program. Fred of course did extremely well even though some expressed extreme hostility toward him while he was a student. Some sighted students who displayed friendliness toward Fred were told that such behavior might jeopardize their careers.

Following his graduation, the knotty problem of O&M certification came along. At that time the only possible professional certification was administered by the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB), then Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), and now the Academy. The good old boys had decided to screen out all blind people. To accomplish this, they created a bogus document called the Functional Abilities Checklist. Relying upon visual techniques, it proved that sight--very good sight--is absolutely essential to teach travel. Fred failed the visual portions of the assessment and was refused AAWB certification.

Then Fred moved on with his life and launched the career we all know and admire--travel instructor, public school special education program administrator, state commission for the blind director, federal rehabilitation commissioner, and now university research professor and director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.

An NFB lawsuit was filed against AAWB/AER, but in the final analysis the case was dismissed with a ruling by the court that, since AER was a private association rather than a public entity receiving federal funds, Section 504 did not apply. Even with this clear ruling by the court, certain AER officials misrepresented the facts and claimed that the judge had taken jurisdiction and had ruled that under Section 504 it was not discriminatory to bar the blind from professional certification.

Fred never received AAWB/AER certification, but, to complete the story, I would like to say for the record that Dr. Fred Schroeder is now a certified O&M instructor. It seemed particularly fitting that he receive the very first National Orientation and Mobility Certification presented by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board.

These then are the facts about Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, NOMC, but they do not reveal the true character and spirit of the man. Even so, this brief history tells the story of why it is fitting that our award for excellence be named for him. Intelligence, drive, patience, compassion, stick-to-itiveness, good sense, and a fierce passion for justice for the blind: what more can be said; what more could be wanted?

With this bit of history as a backdrop, we turn to our new award. As with National Federation of the Blind recognitions, this honor will not necessarily be presented each year but only as often as it has been earned through exemplary service. The 2002 recipient of the Fredric K. Schroeder Award is the program instructor in the Louisiana Tech O&M master's program, Mr. Roland Allen, NOMC.

Like Dr. Schroeder, Roland's life was touched profoundly and changed forever when he met the National Federation of the Blind. And he too has distinguished himself by being a first--the first blind O&M instructor in the country teaching in a university program. He has been a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind and at Louisiana Tech University and also holds our National Orientation and Mobility Certification.

Presently, although Dr. Ruby Ryles coordinates professional development and heads the Tech O&M master's program, it is Roland Allen who actually teaches the hands-on travel training part of the degree. He has become invaluable to the program and has mastered the ability to teach the nonvisual and structured-discovery techniques. Roland is a busy guy. He also teaches travel at the Louisiana Center for the Blind and is a leader in the NFB of Louisiana.

In describing Roland Allen and his significance and contributions to the program, Dr. Ryles writes,

 

It is profoundly fitting that Roland Allen is the first recipient of the Fredric K. Schroeder Award in that, like Dr. Schroeder, Roland is not only a beloved professional but also a true pioneer in the field of orientation and mobility. As the nation's first blind university orientation and mobility instructor, Roland exemplifies the personal dedication, teaching skills, and professional excellence that he strives daily to instill in our Tech master's students.

He demonstrates in both his personal and professional life the values to which we as Federationists dedicate our lives. I am honored to call him my colleague and blessed to call him my friend.

 

Roland, as a symbol of your excellence and to memorialize this occasion, the National Blindness Professional Certification Board bestows its first ever Fredric K. Schroeder Award upon you and presents you with this walnut plaque. It reads:

 

FREDRIC K. SCHROEDER AWARD

 

presented to

Roland Allen, NOMC

For excellence in teaching the

structured discovery strategy of travel

training to future instructors of the blind.

Because of your pioneering, dedicated,

and exemplary contributions to the field

of orientation and mobility,

the blind of tomorrow will be enabled to walk

independently through life with faith

justified by self-confidence;

they will be masters of their own destinies!

 

Louisville, Kentucky

July 5, 2002

National Blindness Professional Certification Board

 

Following enthusiastic applause, Roland Allen then spoke briefly. This is what he said:

 

I am truly honored to receive this award. I want to thank Mr. Omvig and the rest of the board members. And I also have to thank God for sending me to an organization like the National Federation of the Blind over sixteen years ago. You know, [sounding rattled] Joanne took a chance on me--I am just touched, I'm sorry--Joanne put me in a position where I could give back to blind people as so many members of the National Federation of the Blind have given to me. Because of the dedication of all of my role models and the people who have given to me, I have dedicated my life to make sure that blind people are competent travelers and that blind people are looked at as professionals who can teach blind people to travel and be productive members of society. This organization means a lot to me. I love all of you, and I greatly appreciate this award.

 

The Distinguished Service Award

 

Gary Wunder presents a plaque to Ed Bryant.
Gary Wunder presents a plaque to Ed Bryant

Near the close of the board meeting Gary Wunder, president of the NFB of Missouri and a member of the NFB board of directors, came to the microphone to make a special presentation. He said:

 

Our recipient came into the world on February 10, 1945, a normal birth and a real joy to his parents. They say, however, that he found the process so upsetting that it took more than a year for him to say a word. He's over that now, and it is through his words that he is known.

The person we honor is blind and a diabetic. His blindness in the middle of a successful and expanding career brought on his unwanted and unplanned retirement, but in character with our Federation philosophy he decided he must make lemonade from lemons. Our recipient simply found himself a new career, one that would give him a reason to live and give others an option to live. With the help of the Federation and his own innate drive and creativity, this man transcended retirement and put his energy into a volunteer position which is every bit as demanding as any paid one.

When our recipient came to the Federation, he knew what it was like to be independent and successful, but what he didn't know was how he could continue to be both and be blind. The organization which gave him that knowledge is one he credits with being the most important and impressive he has ever known.

When our colleague looked at blindness and diabetes, he found a lot of information about each but almost nothing about both. Where others said, "Gee, that's too bad," this man said "Listen, this is unacceptable." His colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind agreed with him, and together we started a division which since has become the Diabetes Action Network. Our new division took up the cause of good-quality, people-oriented information about blindness and diabetes and so created the Voice of the Diabetic. Its first and only editor is the man we honor today. The Voice is the story of a small newsletter that soon became a magazine, its first printing starting at 600 and its circulation now at 300,000.

In the NFB we say we save lives, and indeed we do, but generally we mean we create opportunity so a life is worth living. The work we do with blind diabetics not only helps to make life worth living but, through the information we provide about self-medication and living independently, we often make the difference between life and death. It is with pleasure that I ask Mr. Ed Bryant to come forward to accept this plaque. Ed, we ask that you accept this award with our admiration, our love for the man you are, and for all of the lives you touch. I am going to give you this award, and then I will read it to you, if you will hold it up for the audience. It says:

 

Distinguished Service Award

Ed Bryant

 

For your selfless devotion and unstinting effort to create a climate that brings greater independence to the blind, the National Federation of the Blind grants you the Distinguished Service Award. Your effort is unflagging; your spirit is unquenchable.

 

July 2002

 

Thank you very much, Gary Wunder, President Maurer, the entire board, and everyone in the audience. Quite honestly, I usually have something to say, but I am a little stunned today. This is very gratifying, and I do appreciate it. I will keep it short; I know we are really pressed for time. All I really need to say is that I do spend a lot of time with our Diabetes Action Network board. I'm a blind diabetic, have been for forty-three years, and our purpose is to show people that they are not alone and they do have opportunities. Someone blind from diabetes is just like someone blind for any other reason. All we have to remember is that many times diabetics have other complications. Diabetes has many ramifications--like I have had a kidney transplant for nineteen years--just little things like that. Anyway, this is really great, and I do appreciate it. Thank you very much.

 

The Louis Braille Memorial Award

 

Harold Snider presents the Louis Braille Award to Pamela Lorimer.
Harold Snider presents the Louis Braille Award to Pamela Lorimer.

Harold Snider came to the podium early in the banquet to make a presentation for the International Braille Research Center. This is what he said:

 

Distinguished guests, fellow Federationists, ladies and gentlemen, this year the International Braille Research Center will again present its Louis Braille Award, the most prestigious award in the field of Braille given anywhere in the world. This award is not presented every year. Rather, it is presented from time to time, only when the fellows of the IBRC have unanimously agreed that there is a candidate worthy to receive the award. This year there is such a candidate.

Our recipient this year is from the United Kingdom. During the first thirty-two years of her life she prepared for and taught elementary school students without disabilities. After further education, in 1950 she was employed to teach blind elementary school students at the Lickey Grange School. It was there that she met her dear husband, to whom she was married for thirty-six years until his sudden and untimely death in 1992. She taught at Lickey Grange School for eight years and stopped in order to adopt two sons. Her husband John was blind, and she spent many years as his assistant, working on Braille research projects. John was one of the eminent experts on Grade II British Braille in the United Kingdom. I first met her and John at a conference on Braille held by the National Library Service in Washington twenty years ago.

Our recipient and her husband have had a long and fruitful relationship with the Center for Research and Education of the Blind and Visually Handicapped at Birmingham University, which until recently was directed by Dr. Michael Tobin, a previous award winner in the year 2000. Dr. Tobin recommended that our recipient complete a doctoral degree after her husband's death. She took much of the research which she had previously done and added to it to write her dissertation, the definitive history of Braille, which, as we heard earlier this week, has just been published in book form by the National Federation of the Blind. With Dr. Tobin as her mentor, she received her doctorate in 1997 at the age of seventy-nine. She is now eighty-four--that is, she is fourteen with seventy years of experience.

It is now my pleasure, honor, and privilege to present the Louis Braille Award, which consists of a magnificent plaque and a four-ounce solid gold medallion depicting the bust of Louis Braille. The plaque reads as follows:

 

The International Braille Research Center presents the Louis Braille Award to Mrs. Pamela Lorimer, Ph.D., for outstanding academic achievement in the cause of Braille.

 

July 8, 2002

 

Pam, I'm going to give you this plaque. And here we have the solid gold medallion, which is inside this box.

 

Dr. Lorimer then responded:

 

I've spent the last few days having a wonderful time. I had no idea this was coming. I am overwhelmed, but I am very honored. Thank you very much.

The Golden Keys Award

 

Nadine Jacobsen and Debra Bonde, who is holding her plaque
Nadine Jacobsen and Debra Bonde, who is holding her plaque

Immediately following the Louis Braille Award presentation, Nadine Jacobson, president of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, came to the podium. This is what she said:

 

This is a great evening about Braille, isn't it? In the last year we have heard a great deal about heroes, but many heroes are normally unsung. I want to tell you tonight about a woman who is not blind. Her children are not blind. She began transcribing Braille for kids in 1978, and she began to realize that blind children could not buy Braille books. They could get them from the library, but they had to send them back. I'm sure that many of you remember when you were a little kid getting a book from the library that you just loved but you couldn't keep. It had to go back so somebody else could read it. This woman decided that wasn't right. She believed that blind children too should be able to read, own, and keep books. I would like to call Debra Bonde.

Debra Bonde is the director of Seedlings Braille Books for Children in Lavonia, Michigan. Seedlings was incorporated in 1984, and they have produced more than 450 titles and sent out over 250,000 books. The award we will be giving Deborah is a special award given only periodically by NAPUB. It is called the Golden Keys Award.

 

The Golden Keys Award

The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille

to Seedlings Braille Books for Children

we award these golden keys

in recognition of its accomplishment in

providing over six million pages

of high-quality, low-cost Braille books for young readers.

For several generations its wonderful books

have planted the seeds of Braille literacy

throughout this continent.

 

Ms. Bonde responded:

 

Thank you very much. I am deeply honored, and I humbly accept this award on behalf of the Seedlings staff, the board, all the volunteers, and the donors, who subsidize the cost of each of the books we make. Each book is made with a great deal of love. At Seedlings we love children, we love books, and we particularly love Braille books. Isn't Braille beautiful?

We believe in raising readers by introducing books early and often. We believe that reading is one of the most basic building blocks of education, a golden key that can unlock so many doors. I would like to thank Nadine and the members of NAPUB for this beautiful award, which we will proudly display on our wall and for the support which it symbolizes. Being here has reenergized us to go back to the Detroit area and make many, many more books for our children. Thank you so much.

 

The Newel Perry Award

 

When the excitement of the scholarship presentation had calmed down a little, Allen Harris made the following presentation:

 

One of the honors that we bestow from time to time on an individual is named for Newel Perry. Newel Perry, as many of you know, was a teacher of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and of many other blind people who attended the California School for the Blind. He was a man, himself blind, who had been educated in mathematics but could not find work although he had advanced degrees, including a Ph.D., and had taught at the Sorbonne in Paris. After returning to the States, working for a while in New York City at comparatively menial work, he ended up doing what he was called to do, teaching blind children at the California School for the Blind.

Dr. Daniel Reneau and Allen Harris shake hands.
Dr. Daniel Reneau and Allen Harris shake hands.

We look to people who have partnered with us in the Federation in projects that have been important and meaningful and have contributed to educational opportunities for blind people in the United States. We often look outside of the Federation for people who have worked with us and supported our beliefs and our ideals, in helping to facilitate the establishment of educational improvements or opportunities, some of which did not previously exist. It is our pleasure tonight to present the Newel Perry Award to the president of Louisiana Tech, Dr. Daniel Reneau. Dr. Reneau, will you step up here please?

Dr. Reneau was graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in chemical engineering in 1963 and with a master's degree in 1964. He went on to earn a doctorate from Clemson University in 1966. He then returned to his alma mater, Louisiana Tech, where he worked as a faculty member and did a number of other tasks at the university until 1980, when he was appointed vice president for academic affairs. In 1987 Dr. Reneau was appointed president of Louisiana Tech University. He heads a dynamic, growing, and important university in this country, one that has been rated repeatedly by U.S. News and World Report in the top one hundred institutions of higher education. Dr. Reneau has authored over eighty scholarly articles and edited more than five books. As you can see, he is clearly a distinguished scholar and a leader. He is the kind of person whom we in the National Federation of the Blind think of when we think of excellence, when we think of teaching, when we think of Newel Perry. I will read to you, Dr. Reneau, what the plaque says:

 

Newel Perry Award

National Federation of the Blind

in recognition of courageous leadership

and outstanding service,

the National Federation of the Blind

bestows its highest honor,

the Newel Perry Award,

upon

Dr. Daniel D. Reneau

our colleague;

our friend;

our brother on the barricades.

You champion our progress;

you strengthen our hopes;

you share our dreams.

July 8, 2002

 

Dr. Reneau?

 

Mr. Harris, President Maurer, Commissioner Wilson, Dr. Schroeder, distinguished members at the head table, to each and every one of you in this audience tonight, including my former classmate and good friend James Mays, I simply can't express to you in words how deeply appreciative and humble I feel at receiving your award tonight. It is particularly meaningful because thirty years and seven days ago I was privileged to establish the bioengineering department at Louisiana Tech, and it has made a name for itself in providing educational and occupational opportunity to the severely handicapped. So it is a distinct honor and privilege for me to be with you at this marvelous banquet and to accept the Newel Perry Award.

I want to point out that I say the Federation of the Blind not for the blind. We at Louisiana Tech University certainly recognize the difference and support it.

To recognize one person particularly, I want to recognize Joanne Wilson. She is visionary. She is a prime mover. We have watched with awe and inspiration and pride the Center for the Blind grow from its infancy in '85 until its world acclaim of today. President Bush is very smart in appointing his commissioners. Joanne focuses on possibilities, not obstacles. It was she and others from the National Federation of the Blind who first approached us with the idea of a master's degree in orientation and mobility. That has gone over very well. Once that was under way, Joanne and her people began visioning and dreaming again, and they began talking about the education and research center. So we have now put together the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. It's a joint venture. The entire institute is directed by Dr. Fred Schroeder; I don't know if you know, but he is the first blind person in America to hold a master's degree in orientation and mobility.

We could name others: Dr. Ruby Ryles, Dr. Ronald Ferguson, and President Pam Allen, who is doing such a fine job. We at Louisiana Tech are very aware that the National Federation of the Blind is the prominent force in this field and is doing pioneering work all around the country to change what it means to be blind. I am pleased to tell you that we at Tech are not the only people in Louisiana who recognize the valuable contributions being made by the Louisiana Center for the Blind and our institute. In a time of hardships in many states, our state legislature voted to fund our institute again this year, but with a 25 percent increase over last year's appropriation.

Right before I conclude, let me tell you that we have one of the finest biomedical engineering centers in the nation at Louisiana Tech. We have one of the finest micro-manufacturing centers, that's in nanotechnology in biomems, the word that I heard today. And now we have one of the finest institutes for blindness. I am going to work toward integrating those three factors for a holistic approach to blindness. As I accept this Newel Perry Award on behalf of Louisiana Tech, I pledge to you that our partnership with you will only grow and strengthen through the years. We want to be a valuable part of your effort to reduce drastically the 70- to 80-percent unemployment rate among blind people of working age. We at Louisiana Tech share your vision for the future.

The Jacobus tenBroek Award

 

Following the Newel Perry Award presentation, President Maurer came to the microphone again to say:

 

I come to make the presentation of the award which we as an organization give internally. A number of years ago we decided that the Newel Perry Award was a very valuable, high honor of our organization and that we would consider it for presentation to people who were not within the Federation. We decided at the same time that we would establish the Jacobus tenBroek Award for activity of members of the organization of such a quality that it would exemplify those traits and characteristics which made Dr. tenBroek the outstanding leader that he was. We give this award, not each year, but only as often as we find an individual worthy to receive it.

President Maurer speaks at the podium while Al and Sharon Maneki hold their plaque.
President Maurer speaks at the podium while Al and Sharon Maneki hold their plaque

The tenBroek Award Committee has met and has selected this year, not a single individual, but two. They are, however, very closely associated; in fact, a number of years ago they married each other, and they have remained so. The people involved have the ability to lead. Yet they possess an understanding that they must be part of a team. They do not ordinarily receive much recognition, but they work tirelessly to ensure that the organization grows, prospers, pursues the dreams that we as blind people have. One of them is today an officer in an affiliate; the other has been an officer but, I believe, is not today. They are always supportive to the best of their ability, always willing to give without counting the cost, always prepared to go the extra mile.

I ask that Sharon and Al Maneki come forward. There are many things that could be said about the Manekis. I think that today I may have heard more of a description of Dr. Maneki's employment than ever before in history--and this from the undersecretary of the Department of Defense. Dr. Maneki has steadfastly avoided ever discussing his employment. Sharon has frequently said that she would not and has made a humorous remark of it. They both, however, work for the Department of Defense. Sharon Maneki has been a teacher. She taught in New Jersey for many years, then she took a job with the federal government.

Al Maneki got his degree from, I believe, the University of North Dakota. At least I know that he taught there for a time, which must have been a trial for a man who grew up in Hawaii. There are other pieces of history that we could relate. The thing that makes this award of real importance is not the history nearly as much as the present. Sharon is our president in Maryland. She makes the affiliate grow and prosper, and she takes on the tough issues. Whenever there is an issue that should be brought before the legislature or a case that should be taken with a school district or something that has gone wrong respecting the blind in the city or whatever it may be, she is there.

She said to me that a blind woman who was having trouble getting her taxes paid and who had had some company take over her house needed help. She said that she wanted somebody in a certain case to be assigned to go help, which we did. I was pleased to do that. But, when the person got there to help, this elderly woman, who is about a hundred now, mentioned that Sharon had been helping her for months already and doing a lot of the work. It was just that she couldn't get there that day. And that's the way she is. She's got a dozen things going all at the same time.

And what about Al Maneki? Al Maneki provides support, help, encouragement to Sharon Maneki. He's prepared to do his part too. He'll raise money for scholarships; he'll help to plan things; he'll work on the finances; he'll do whatever else is asked. But I suspect, although I have never asked, that one of the most important things he does is give encouragement and support to Sharon. Because of the real commitment of these two, we award them the Jacobus tenBroek Award. Now, Sharon and Al--I have now presented the award to Sharon and Al Maneki, and it reads:

 

JACOBUS tenBROEK AWARD

National Federation of the Blind

presented to

Sharon and Alfred Maneki

for your dedication, sacrifice, and commitment

on behalf of the blind of this nation.

Your contribution is measured not in steps but in miles.

Not by individual experiences but by your impact

on the lives of the blind of the nation.

Whenever we have asked, you have answered.

We call you our colleagues with respect.

We call you our friends with love.

July 9, 2002

 

Sharon Maneki responded first:

 

You know, people think, "Oh wow, it's great that you live in Maryland," and it is. But it's also a tough state to live in because you got to be good, or at least you got to pretend to be. I want to say thank you to each and every person in this room. Words really couldn't express everything that we are feeling tonight. Thank you.

 

Al Maneki then said:

 

Thank you, everybody. I want to say that, if tonight there is anybody that deserves remembrance, it's John and Connie McCraw. While those names are only history to most of us, because it was really almost twenty-five years ago--history through our records and our willingness to study it, history lives, and it's a reminder and a teacher for all of us. I am here today really because John and Connie told me to get involved, that it is important.

I don't have too much more to say. The Secretary of Defense told you what I did, and he didn't have to shoot any of you. One does not join the movement to get an award. One doesn't look forward to it; one doesn't anticipate it, but it is certainly appreciated when it comes. Thank you very much.

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