Braille Monitor                                                                                                 August/September 2004

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The 2004 Awards
Presented by the National Federation of the Blind

From the Editor: This year the National Federation of the Blind presented five awards, three at the July 1 board of directors meeting and two at the July 4 banquet. Here are the presentations as they occurred:

Blind Educator of the Year Award

During the board meeting President Maurer called Steve Benson, chairman of the Blind Educator Selection Committee, to the microphone to make the presentation. This is what he said:

Thank you, President Maurer, and thank you, members of the selection committee--Sheila Koenig, Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhof--for participating in committee deliberations. The 2004 recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award is one whose talent, teaching skills, contributions to the field of education, and leadership in the community and in the National Federation of the Blind merit such singular recognition.

This year’s honoree will receive a check for one thousand dollars and a plaque reading:

National Federation of the Blind
Blind Educator of the Year
presented to
_____________________
in recognition of outstanding
accomplishments
in the teaching profession
You enhance the present
You inspire your colleagues
You build the future.
July 2004

This year’s award recipient has taken seriously lessons learned from Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer:
   Blindness is a characteristic, not a handicap;
   Blind people compete on terms of equality with sighted people;
   Mastery of the skills of blindness and self-confidence are essential ingredients for success;
   It is respectable to be blind.

The winner of this year’s Blind Educator of the Year Award emulates Dr. tenBroek, founder of our organization, in a number of ways. He teaches speech and communication. There is great demand for his classes. He has set high standards for himself and for his graduate and undergraduate students. He is a gifted, rigorous instructor--tough-minded and compassionate.

Dr. J. Webster Smith displays his plaque.
Dr. J. Webster Smith displays his plaque.

The nominating letter from the dean of the university college at which this year’s honoree teaches comments that he has “taught with distinction.” Further, he says, “he has developed and taught courses” and is a “caring and effective advisor.” He is a “splendid colleague,” and “excellent ambassador” for his university.

According to the honoree’s state president, our winner has not only organized a chapter but “has stimulated a great deal of public education in the community and on campus about the abilities of blind people and the nature of the discrimination we still face.” In whatever community or professional activity this year’s honoree has involved himself, he has done so as a Federationist, and he makes it very clear.

He is involved in membership recruitment, ably chairs the state scholarship program, and serves as the state affiliate first vice president. In all of his leadership capacities he works well with other leaders. He has published numerous papers and articles and presented several papers at professional conferences. He has also garnered professional awards for his excellent work. Fellow Federationists, this year’s Blind Educator of the Year is Dr. J. Webster Smith.

While J. W is making his way to the platform, I will tell you that he is associate professor of speech communication at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Indiana University, his master’s degree at Purdue University, and his Ph.D. at Wayne State University.

Dr. Smith, here is a check for $1,000 and this beautiful plaque. Fellow Federationists, here is Dr. J. Webster Smith.

To President Maurer and to my boss and colleague President Pierce, and Chairman Benson of the committee, and fellow Federationists. For years I have sat where you are sitting and observed outstanding educators come up here and wrestle with their emotions and their ability to articulate what they are feeling. I said, "I wonder what that feels like?" Now I know. This is the most meaningful award in my twenty-plus years of teaching, and I'm thinking now about 1992. It was about May of that year. I was sitting around in my house. The phone rang. I picked it up, and this lady said, "Hold for a call from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan." It took him almost seven minutes to convince me and make it possible for me to attend my first national convention. As they say, the rest is history.

I want you to know I am rarely speechless, and now I know how so many others have felt here. It is indeed an honor. It will only make me work that much harder. Thank you so very much.

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

A little later in the board meeting President Maurer invited Sharon Maneki, who chairs the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, to present that award. This is what she said:

Good morning Mr. President and fellow Federationists. The committee of Allen Harris, Joyce Scanlan, Dr. Edwin Vaughn, and I is pleased to bring the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award to you this morning. This award began in about 1987 to recognize vision teachers in the field who teach not only the skills of blindness but the philosophy of self-confidence and excellence. Our recipient (as she makes her way to the podium) is from the great state of Idaho. She has been teaching for twenty-eight years. She'll begin her twenty-ninth year in September. While she hails from the Idaho State School for the Blind, she travels the realm of Idaho going out to the vision programs and the students in their districts. She said that she has to spend at least an hour a day just getting to the individual before she actually begins her teaching-- Jan Zollinger.

I want you all to know that Jan is wearing a pin that says, "Read for fun." This is a Braille pin, and she says it was her lucky charm. That's just one example of why she is our recipient this year. First of all, Jan, I have for you a check for a thousand dollars. I'm going to present the plaque to Jan, and then I will read it:

THE NATIONAL FEDERATIONT
OF THE BLIND

HONORS

JAN ZOLLINGER
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND
CHILDREN


FOR YOUR SKILLS 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

SYUDENTS TO RISE BEYOND
THEIR EXPECTATIONS.


YOU CHAMPION OUR MOVEMENT,

YOU STRENGTHEN OUR HOPES,
YOU SHARE OUR DREAMS.
July 2004

Ladies and gentlemen, here is Jan Zollinger. [applause]

Jan Zollinger poses with her award.
Jan Zollinger poses with her award.

Dr. Maurer, board of directors, and all of you Federationists: Thank you so much for this award; it is a great honor. Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. I want all of you people to know that I have learned much the last few days. It started back in Minneapolis/St. Paul several days ago when I met the Markses in the airport. They were so excited to tell us all about the National Federation meeting. I've met many people over the last three days who have taught me much. I have taught blind children for twenty-eight years, and I have learned a lot the last few days.

Barbara Pierce spoke the first day to the children's group--what a classy lady she is. She talked on socialization [applause], and I learned from her. Then, as I was choosing classes to go to, I saw a Braille class. I love teaching Braille; Braille is so much fun. I decided to go to a Braille class. I went to Carolyn Rounds and Nancy Burns's Braille class. Somebody said, "Why are you going to a Braille class? You teach Braille already.”

I said, "Because I can always learn more." I did. Their class was so much fun. Thank you, Nancy and Carolyn--your class was fun; I enjoyed it.

Then I met Theresa and Anna from the Bahamas, a mother and daughter. They got me so excited about being here and about learning all that was here. I met a special young lady the other night at the Karaoke, Sophie, who is a college student, and it was so fun to visit with her.

I am thankful for this award. I'm thankful for Larry Streeter, who is the Idaho president of the National Federation of the Blind, for nominating me. Sharon, I want to thank you and the committee. This is a great honor, and I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

 

The Outstanding Service Award

Near the close of the board of directors meeting President Maurer called Dr. Norman Gardner to the podium to make a special presentation. This is what Dr. Gardner said:

Steven Schechner (left), holding his award, and Dr. Norm Gardner
Steven Schechner (left). holding his award, and Dr. Norm Gardner

Fellow Federationists, a little over twenty years ago we started the vending outreach program in the National Federation of the Blind. This is a program in which people go into the business of placing and servicing small bulk candy vending machines. These are the kind that you simply put in a quarter, turn a crank, and get out some candy or nuts or other things. Those who are going into that business may sign a contract with the National Federation of the Blind to place our service and outreach message on their machines. This message informs the public about the National Federation of the Blind and makes them aware of our services to blind people. These vendors, who are in the business of placing these machines, by contract make contributions to the National Federation of the Blind each month.

This program has resulted in significant funding for our movement over the years, and those funds have gone into such things as our scholarship program, our many publications, and other services for blind people and parents of blind children. We have received that funding, and we have also found many new blind people who learn about us when their friends or relatives read those messages on the machines and put us in touch with blind people who are in need of our services.

Today we are making a special presentation to someone who has distinguished himself as one of the major contributors in this program. This is a person who takes very seriously his association with the National Federation of the Blind. This is a person who has worked with great dedication over the years in this program and has been a significant partner with us. Incidentally, Dr. Maurer has brought me a copy of a major trade publication in this field that has spoken very favorably of the vending outreach program of the National Federation of the Blind. This person is a true professional in serving on major committees of the National Bulk Vendor Association. So it gives me great pleasure to present the National Federation of the Blind Outstanding Service Award to Mr. Steven Schechner of Capital Vending. Would you join me in welcoming him? [applause]

I have a plaque which I will present to Mr. Schechner and ask him to hold it while I read what's on the plaque.

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD

PRESENTED TO

STEVEN SCHECHNER
OF CAPITAL VENDING
IN RECOGNITION OF YOUR OUTSTANDING
PARTICIPATION IN AND CONTRIBUTION TO
THE VENDING OUTREACH PROGRAM
OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
I
YOUR HARD WORK AND DEDICATION
HAVE RESULTED IN MAJOR FINANCIAL
SUPPORT FOR THE VALUABLE WORK OF THE
FEDERATION IN CHANGING WHAT IT
MEANS TO BE BLIND IN AMERICA
THE BLIND OF THIS NATION ARE PROUD
TO CALL YOU A PARTNER AND FRIEND
ALANTA GEORGIA, JULY 1,2004

 

Here is Steven Schechner.

Thank you all very much. I'd like to thank Dr. Gardner and President Maurer. I am very proud of my association with the blind since 1988. There is no other organization I've ever seen like it, and I have always stood behind them, and they've always stood behind me. I'm very grateful. Thank you very much.

The Newel Perry Award

During the banquet on Sunday, July 4, Allen Harris, chairman of the Newel Perry Award Selection Committee, came to the microphone to make a presentation before the entire convention. Here are his remarks:

The Newel Perry Award is the highest honor that the Federation bestows to recognize anyone who is not a part of the National Federation of the Blind but who has partnered with us in our effort to achieve equality, security, and opportunity for the blind. We named the award after Newel Perry, because after all he was the individual who inspired, taught, and caused Jacobus tenBroek not only to create the National Federation of the Blind but to help us all learn the truth about blindness--that it is not eyesight that determines who you are, what you become, what your capacity is, or your ability to dream, to achieve, or anything else that you choose to do. Rather, eyesight is a characteristic. We in the Federation have worked to mature and develop that philosophy so that we understand it further to mean that with proper training and opportunity a blind person can compete on terms of equality and be fully integrated into society.

The Newel Perry Award is, as I said, the highest recognition that we give to anyone who has partnered and worked with the Federation. Newel Perry winners in the past have included Jennings Randolph, U.S. senator and author of the Randolph-Sheppard Act; Hubert A. Humphrey, U.S. senator and vice president of the United States (a Democrat); and the current governor of the state of Maryland, Robert Ehrlich. The company you are in if you receive a Newel Perry Award is people who have had influence on and been able to achieve dramatically on behalf of others. The Newel Perry Award stands for education, community involvement, and civil rights. As we work in local communities in our council chambers and in our state houses and in the Congress, we need partners and individuals with whom we can work. In the Congress it is especially so for us in the Federation as we have been successful over the years despite the crises and resistance that Dr. Maurer spoke about this evening. We have prevailed and been successful so many times.

One more example of this can be seen in the Help America Vote Act, which was passed by Congress following the election of 2000. One of the things that we as the blind insist upon is the right to equality, and equality for us means equal--not sometimes equal, not separate and equal--but equal. Part of what we insisted on was not just accessibility but nonvisual-specific language that says blind people will be able to cast a secret ballot in a fashion that has integrity. This was important to us, and we got a member of Congress to help us with that when there wasn't a lot of interest. When we were told that the ink was dry and the bill was ready to roll, we were still banging away at the last minute. We did not accept defeat. We found the person to whom we will present the Newel Perry Award tonight. We found Congressman Danny K. Davis. Congressman Davis, do you want to step up here?

Congressman Davis is holding up the plaque so that you can see it and it can be photographed. 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 THE NEWEL,
PERRY AWARD UPON

DANNY DAVIS

OUR COLLEAGUE; OUR FRIEND;
OUR BROTHER ON THE
BARRICADES; YOU CHAMPION
OUR PROGRESS
YOU STRENGTHEN OUR HOPES;
YOU SHARE OUR DREAMS

July 4, 2004

Congressman Danny Davis displays his plaque.
Congressman Danny Davis displays his plaque.

Thank you very much on behalf of my ninety-three-year-old father, who taught me some values I continue to hold. One of those was to have faith, to believe that you can do whatever it is that you set out to do. I shall never forget once‑‑I grew up in rural Arkansas, where my father was a farmer--one year he decided he wanted to put his mule in the Kentucky Derby. So he took me with him to Louisville [cheers and laughter]. When we got there, he went to the registration desk. The gentleman asked him what he could do for him, and he said, "I want to register my mule."

The man said to my father, "Sir, this is the Kentucky Derby. It's a thoroughbred race, and we don't accept mules. And even if we did, don't you know that your mule couldn't possibly win?"

My father said, "Well, yeah, I understand that, but I just wanted him to know what it feels like to be in such good company" [laughter]. Listening to who the former recipients of this award have been‑‑people like Hubert Humphrey and others‑‑I  know what it feels like to be in such good company. So I thank you for what you have done, for the inspiration that you have given to each other and to millions of others. I leave you with the words of Langston Hughes, who said:

   "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die,
   Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.
   Hold fast to your dreams, and don't let go, for if you let go,
   Life becomes as a broken field covered with snow.”

Hold fast to your dreams.  I thank you so much. God bless you, and thank you. [applause]

Jacobus tenBroek Award

At the banquet on Sunday evening, July 4, Ramona Walhof came to the podium to make the following presentation:

The National Federation of the Blind voted in 1974 to establish an award in memory of our beloved founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. This award is to be given to a leader of the Federation as often as merit directs. In recent years there have been an increasing number of high quality leaders to consider. Thus this award when presented is given to one who has truly made outstanding contributions to the blind of the entire nation, one whose example we all may wish to know about and emulate.

Since 1974 this award has been given to leaders from only thirteen states. Tonight we are adding a fourteenth state, a person from another place. This year the selection committee consisted of Jim Omvig, Joyce Scanlan, and me. We had no difficulty agreeing on the person to receive the 2004 Jacobus tenBroek Award.

Priscilla Ferris holds her plaque.
Priscilla Ferris holds her plaque.

Priscilla Ferris, why don't you make your way up? [applause] Yes, giving awards is a lot of fun. Priscilla Ferris first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1973 and was elected president of her local chapter in 1976. She was re-elected to this position for fifteen years. She was elected vice president of her state affiliate, the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, in 1977 and served in both vice president positions for several years. In 1983 she was elected as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts and has continued to serve in that capacity for more than twenty years. Priscilla was first elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1987 and has been re-elected every two years, eight more times.

Priscilla is proud of her family. She has two grown daughters, three grandsons, and one granddaughter. I well remember Priscilla at the microphone during one NFB convention, announcing the birth of one of her grandchildren. In tears she said that she felt compelled to share with her larger Federation family this wonderful news of the birth of the new baby. Her husband Jack passed away in 2002; Priscilla continues on. Her employers have included a cookie factory, a curtain factory, and the school district of Fall River, Massachusetts, where she worked as a secretary.

Her volunteer work includes many organizations besides the National Federation of the Blind, but she is best known as a Scout leader. She has been working with the Girl Scouts in various capacities for forty-five years. She has led Scout groups; she has administered the entire Scout program in Somerset, Massachusetts; and for six years she served on the board of directors for the Girl Scout Council of Plymouth Bay. She is often quoted as saying that she can light a fire in the rain, set up a tent in a hurricane, dig a latrine wherever it is needed, and teach anyone else to do those things as well.

Priscilla Ferris has made contributions in many parts of the Federation outside New England. She has served for many years on the Scholarship Committee, and she has held office in the National Association of Guide Dog Users. At this convention she was elected president of that division. Priscilla is a reliable, loving leader in New England. When she travels across the country, she is appreciated for her wisdom, her imagination, and her experience. It is with joy and pride, Priscilla, that I give you this award tonight. We respect you for what you are and what you do, and we love you with all our hearts.

Now I am going to give Priscilla this plaque, and then I will read it to you:

JACOBUS tenBROEK AWARD

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

PRESENTED TO

FOR YOUR DEDICATION,
SACRIFICE, AND COMMITMENT
ON BEHALF OF THE BLIND OF THE NATION.

YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS MEASURED
NOT IN STEPS, BUT IN MILES,
NOT BY INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES,
BUT BY THE IMPACT ON THE LIVES
OF THE BLIND OF THE NATION.

WHENEVER WE HAVE ASKED,
YOU HAVE ANSWERED

WE CALL YOU OUR COLLEAGUE
WITH RESPECT

WE CALL YOU OUR FRIEND WITH LOVE.

JULY 4, 2004

Priscilla Ferris: I honestly can't believe this. I certainly wasn't prepared. This is my twenty-sixth annual convention, and I have sat here and watched and guessed who was going to win a tenBroek award. Please believe me, I never believed this was ever going to be mine because I knew so many other people who have given and done so much for the organization.

I want to thank you all for everything, and I will continue as long as I can to do what I can for our organization, the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you so much. [applause]

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