Braille Monitor August/September 2006
From the Editor: In the National Federation of the Blind awards are presented only as often as they are merited. This year the NFB presented three awards at its convention, the International Braille Research Center presented its Louis Braille Award, and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board presented its Fredric K. Schroeder Award. At the Thursday night banquet James Gashel presented an NFB special citation for distinguished service, and Ramona Walhof presented the NFB's tenBroek Award. The other three presentations were made at the board meeting on Monday morning, July 3. This is what happened:
The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
About halfway through the board meeting, President Maurer called Sharon Maneki to the podium. She chairs the National Federation of the Blind Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee. This is what she said:
Good morning, Mr. President and fellow Federationists. This morning we have to present to the convention a teacher with vision. I am not just making a semantic difference here. Yesterday at the Resolutions Committee meeting we talked about the inappropriateness of referring to vision teachers. We need to refer to these teachers as teachers of blind students. So this morning we have a teacher with vision, and the committee who puts her forward consists of Allen Harris, Dr. Ed Vaughan, Joyce Scanlan, and me. Let me tell you a little bit about her as she makes her way to the stage. She is from the great state of Tennessee, from Franklin, Tennessee, in particular. Let's give Gayle Prillaman a round of applause. [applause]
Gayle Prillaman has a master's in education from the University of Virginia. She has an Ed. S. from Vanderbilt University. She has taught in Virginia, in New York, in Arizona, and of course in Tennessee. She has thirty years of experience. Gayle is also a member of the National Federation of the Blind. In particular she is a member of the Middle Tennessee Chapter. She not only provides transportation for chapter members, she has also been an officer in the chapter because as a teacher with vision she recognizes the importance of finding good role models for her students. She is a pioneer because she started the Williamson County school system's program for blind students in 2001. She has the Federation spirit. She saw a job that needed to be done. She didn't wait for somebody else to do it; she did it.
Gayle, first I am going to present you with a $1,000 check. Here you are. We also have a plaque for you. I am going to read the plaque:
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN
SKILL IN TEACHING BRAILLE
AND OTHER ALTERNATIVE TECHNIQUES OF BLINDNESS.
FOR GENEROUSLY DEVOTING EXTRA TIME
TO MEET THE NEEDS OF YOUR STUDENTS
INSPIRING YOU STUDENTS
TO PERFORM BEYOND THEIR EXPECTATIONS.
YOU CHAMPION OUR MOVEMENT
YOU STRENGTHEN OUR HOPES
YOU SHARE OUR DREAMS.
Before I present Gayle and give her the microphone, I just want to tell the convention that all of her family is with her, including her eighty-three-year-old father. Let's give them a round of applause. [applause]
Gayle Prillaman then came to the microphone and said:
Thank you so much for those kind remarks. I am so very honored to be here with you all. I am a relatively new member of the NFB family, about five years, and I am in awe of all the work this organization does and the values it promotes. I am so excited to be here for the entire week--and in the great state of Texas. Those of you who live in Texas know that you have one of the best services in the whole country for blind students.
I'd like to thank my Middle Tennessee Chapter for nominating me. They have been a wonderful group to work with, and they support me. They never say "no" when I ask them to do things to help me. I'd like to thank very much my family for being here: my husband, my dad, my sister from North Carolina, my brother from Atlanta, and my three nieces. That's Jessica, Leah, and Madison. Thank you all so much for the work you do to support families, students, and teachers. [applause]
The Fredric K. Schroeder Award
Late in the board meeting President Maurer called Allen Harris, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, to the platform. He introduced James Omvig to present the 2006 Schroeder Award. This is what Mr. Omvig said:
The officers and directors of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) are pleased to present the 2006 Fredric K. Schroeder Award for outstanding contributions to the field of travel training for the blind. In bestowing this high honor, the NBPCB follows the lead of the National Federation of the Blind: that is, the honor is not automatically presented each year, but only as often as it has been earned through exemplary service in the field of work with the blind. Our first recipient (in 2002) was Roland Allen, NOMC [National Orientation and Mobility Certification], of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and the second (in 2003) was Doug Boone, NOMC, of Pennsylvania.
Before presenting our 2006 recipient, let me offer just a word about the award. In the field of orientation and mobility (O&M), no name holds more weight or lends more prestige and credibility than that of Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder. Therefore it is particularly fitting that the NBPCB's highest recognition be named in his honor. Fred Schroeder's background and record of achievement set a singularly high standard of excellence for this award. Many newer NFB members may not be aware of it, but Fred was the first blind American to earn a master's degree in one of the old-line O&M university programs. It is not of course remarkable at all that Fred graduated with high honors, earning a master's in O&M. He is extremely intelligent and highly motivated. More remarkable are 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.
By the late 1970's Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was being implemented. It prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities by entities that received federal funds. This prohibition included universities. To try to insulate themselves from charges and findings of discrimination for closing the university O&M programs to blind candidates, the good old boys who ran them in the 1960's and seventies agreed to stand as one on the presumption that sight was absolutely essential to teach travel to the blind. They reasoned that, if they were all to insist that sight was an essential function of the position, then excluding the blind could not be found discriminatory. However, the man who ran the San Francisco State program broke ranks. He met Fred, liked him, and admitted him to the program. Fred completed the program with high honors.
Then, since professional certification was completely closed to all blind candidates at the time of his graduation (discrimination against the blind was rampant), Fred never received AAWB/AER [American Association of Workers for the Blind/Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind] professional certification, but, to give you, as Paul Harvey says, "the rest of the story," I would like to state here for the record that Dr. Fred Schroeder is now a certified O&M instructor. It seemed only fitting that he receive the very first National Orientation and Mobility Certification ever presented by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board.
These then are a few of the salient facts about Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, NOMC, but even these facts do not reveal all of the evidence of the true character and spirit of the man. Still 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 2006 award recipient. He first earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from Bloomfield College in New Jersey. He then went on to earn a master's degree in special education with a special certificate as a teacher of blind children from Trenton State College (now known as the College of New Jersey). He is Mr. Joe Cutter. Joe, will you please make your way to the podium?
Many Federationists may not be aware of the name of Joe Cutter, but wherever people discuss teaching travel to blind infants, toddlers, and young children, Joe's name is ubiquitous. In case you don't already know it, Joe is sighted. His story demonstrates conclusively that it is not eyesight--or the lack of it--that defines a true professional in work with the blind. What distinguishes the true professional from the rest of the pack, the wheat from the chaff, is a complete understanding of and profound belief in the truth about blindness--the normality of the blind as a group and the concomitant high expectations for success which necessarily follow from an understanding of this enlightening truth.
Joe's first job was working with a special group of blind high-school-age residents of the Johnstone Training and Research Center in Bordentown, New Jersey. Before long, Johnstone requested that someone come to the institution to train Joe in O&M. A year or so later (in 1972) the New Jersey Commission for the Blind had a vacancy for an O&M instructor, and Joe got the job.
Within a couple of years the Commission identified a serious problem--an enormous void in real independence and mobility skills among the blind youth of New Jersey. Joe was asked if he would like to work with very young children. Thus began the Early Childhood O&M Program of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind. Joe's new program focused on blind children from birth to age seven, the first such program in the country.
By 1990 Joe was recognized by the New Jersey Commission as its Teacher of the Year. As a part of this recognition, Joe was presented with a cash award. Consistent with the character of the man, Joe used the money from his award to enable parents of blind children to attend infant development lectures at Rutgers University and organized a trip for blind children and their families to the newly created audio-described performance of the New Jersey Ballet's Nutcracker Suite. Then our own Carol Castellano met Joe Cutter and persuaded him to become involved in the National Federation of the Blind.
In 1994 Joe initiated the Cane Walk at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind: an event which has grown in popularity every year and in which he still takes part. At that same convention Joe was presented with the Federation's Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award. He is currently hard at work on a book that will be out sometime in the coming year. It is called, Independent Movement and Travel in Blind Children: A Promotion Model.
Although he is sighted, Joe exhibits a fierce passion for justice for the blind, and he exemplifies the personal dedication, teaching skills, and professional excellence that are the hallmarks of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. His teaching services have had a profound, positive, and lasting impact upon countless blind consumers of services.
Joe, in order to memorialize this special occasion, I am pleased to present you with this engraved walnut plaque. It reads:
K. SCHROEDER AWARD
AND DETERMINATION IN HELPING BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS
IN THE FIELD OF LONG CANE TRAVEL FOR BLIND CHILDREN.
BECAUSE OF YOUR PIONEERING, DEDICATED, AND TIRELESS CONTRIBUTIONS
TO THE FIELD OF TRAVEL TRAINING FOR BLIND INFANTS, TODDLERS, AND YOUNG CHILDREN,
COUNTLESS BLIND TEENAGERS AND ADULTS OF TOMORROW
WILL BE ENABLED TO WALK INDEPENDENTLY THROUGH LIFE WITH FAITH JUSTIFIED BY SELF-CONFIDENCE.
NATIONAL BLINDNESS PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION BOARD
JULY 3, 2006
Joe Cutter came to the stage to receive the award. In accepting it he said:
Wow! This has certainly caught me by surprise. What an honor! You guys--the National Federation of the Blind…. When I was at a point in my professional career of--perhaps burnout is too strong a word, but approaching that--through Carol Castellano and Bill Cucco and other parents of blind children in New Jersey, I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind and its philosophy and Joe Ruffalo and other New Jersey Federationists, I took to the philosophy like a duck to water. What I had to say seemed to be of interest to Federationists as well. It became a natural marriage.
I am so overwhelmed today to receive this honor. Especially since my first introduction to the Federation was at a state convention, where I shared a parents seminar with Dr. Schroeder and was mentored by his philosophy and his early writings, particularly his articles talking about blind preschoolers using canes. I was fueled and motivated by that because I was not motivated by the conventional profession of O&M. So my model changed from more deficit to asset thinking. And burnout was no longer in the picture. It was fuel--high octane.
This is a total surprise to me today and quite an honor. Just when I think I have perhaps reached my professional best and when I think that I have given what I have to give, this organization has always raised me up to more than I can be. Thank you so much, thank you. [applause]
The Louis Braille Award
Toward the close of the board meeting, Harold Snider, chairman of the International Braille Research Center, was called to the platform to make a presentation. This is what he said:
Good morning, everyone. I had to bamboozle our recipient by telling him that the board was going to discuss Braille. Indeed it always discusses Braille. The International Braille Research Center confers the Louis Braille Award from time to time, but only when we've found a worthy recipient. Today's honoree is no stranger to us; his is a household name among blind people. His biographical information and achievements are well known to many of us.
Now for some clues. He grew up on the lower east side of New York City in the early part of the twentieth century. One of his early playmates and close friends was Zero Mostel, the star of the original Broadway play version of Fiddler on the Roof. Here's another clue: our honoree's first language was Yiddish and not English, which, by the way, he eventually learned and hasn't stopped talking yet. He has survived two wives. His academic specialties are mathematics and computer science. He traveled independently and regularly on the New York City subway long before the NFB was founded and long before the advent of the modern long white cane. His favorite poem is apparently called "The Hermit," which he recites annually at the NFB Research and Development Committee meeting. He is a great pianist and likes to play popular music from the thirties, forties, and fifties.
A few years ago the late Dr. Jacob Fried prematurely published his obituary in the Jewish Braille Review, much to our recipient's consternation. Earlier this year we came close to losing him because of a near fatal heart attack, but here he is at this convention, traveling by himself, independently, at the age of eighty-seven. For at least the last two generations he has guided our thinking about Braille and its codes. When I was in fifth grade I thought I hated this guy and never imagined that he would become my friend. You see, when I got my fifth grade math book almost fifty years ago, you can guess what code it was written in--of course, the Nemeth Code of Braille Mathematics.
That's right. Our recipient today is Dr. Abraham Nemeth. [applause] He hasn't stopped inventing new Braille codes. Not only does the computer Braille code show his thinking, but the Nemeth Unified Braille system is a fantastic synthesis of the best features of the unified English Braille code and the Nemeth Code of Braille Mathematics. In my opinion, only Louis Braille himself has had more influence on Braille than our recipient. Therefore it is entirely appropriate that we honor Abe Nemeth for his lifetime achievement in research and development of the Braille code.
Now let's get to the good part. Abe, here is the Louis Braille medal. It is four ounces of gold. It's worth about $2,500 at the current price. It's our hope you won't melt it down just yet. On the front of the medal is a portrait in relief of Louis Braille. Finally I would like to present you with a plaque, which is appropriately written in both print and Braille. I will read the plaque and then present it. The plaque reads as follows:
BRAILLE RESEARCH CENTER
LOUIS BRAILLE AWARD
DR. ABRAHAM NEMETH, PH.D.
IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF BRAILLE CODES.
HAROLD SNIDER, CHAIRMAN
President Maurer: Congratulations, Dr. Nemeth. Would you care to say a word?
Dr. Nemeth: Thank you. I am reminded of rabbis and ministers who always begin their speeches by saying, "Before I begin to speak, I would just like to say a few words." I thank you so much for this award. I am developing a code called NUBS, Nemeth Uniform Braille System. I am doing it because when I looked at the Nemeth Code in my later years, I realized that there were a few youthful indiscretions for which I must now atone. So I am doing NUBS, which is nothing but a clone of the Nemeth Code and will not make any current Nemeth Code works obsolete, but it will make it more computable and easier to translate from Braille to print and from print to Braille. I hope to put it on the Web in a month or two, because I am proofreading it now.
I thank everybody in the Research Center for this award. Thank you very much.
A Citation for Distinguished Service
Late in the banquet festivities James Gashel came to the podium to make a special presentation. This is what he said:
Thank you very much, Dr. Schroeder and fellow Federationists. Tonight I have the distinct honor to present a National Federation of the Blind Special Citation for Distinguished Service. I don't believe that I have ever presented such a citation before. In 1994--that would be twelve years ago--we started NFB-NEWSLINE®. We didn't call it NFB-NEWSLINE back in those days, but we started NFB-NEWSLINE. At that time, September of 1994, we didn't have even one news organization to work with us, and it is of course essential to have a news organization for such an effort. So we called up Tom Curley, who at that time was--I don't know what his exact title was--but he was the big dog at USA Today. He ran the thing. And he said, "Sure, I'll be glad to work with the National Federation of the Blind" to create the first audio news service that you can dial up on the telephone and get the news right away, any time, anywhere. So we did that: we created that first version of NFB-NEWSLINE in the Baltimore/Washington area in September 1994.
Tom Curley was at our convention in 1975 to receive a special award for doing that, because he helped us get it started. Today that service has 233 newspapers, four magazines--you've heard all the statistics. But the most wonderful thing of all is that NFB-NEWSLINE now has the Associated Press national feed and the Associated Press for every single state in this country--updated hourly. [applause] Until recently it has been something of a well-kept secret--but I don't think it will be after tonight--blind people now have greater access to the news than you have if you can read the newspaper in print. And I think that's the way it ought to be! [cheers and applause]
They say that knowledge is power. I think the blind need some power. There is a lot of power in this room tonight. Do you think that there might be any coincidence in the fact that, in this year when we have added the Associated Press national and state news services, we now have two blind people running for lieutenant governor in their respective states? [cheers] We are making history in the National Federation of the Blind! I think that deserves a special citation, and John Lumpkin, who is in charge of U.S. news operations for the Associated Press, is here to accept this citation tonight. John, if you will step forward, I am going to read this. It says:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
CITATION FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
OF OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE BLIND
BY PROVIDING NEWS TO NFB-NEWSLINE®
YOU CARRY IS TRUTH;
THE CAUSE YOU ESPOUSE IS FAIRNESS;
THE POWER YOU IMPART IS KNOWLEDGE!
JULY 6, 2006
John, thank you very much. We very much appreciate all that you are doing. Thank you, thank you, thank you! [applause]
John Lumpkin: It's not a coincidence that a man named Tom Curley is my boss now. Tom wished he could have been here tonight. He honored me by allowing me to accept this on behalf of the Associated Press. But it is really his belief in this organization and the services that you provide that led him as our CEO, after he left USA Today, to agree and help facilitate the Associated Press's becoming a participant in NFB-NEWSLINE.
As we heard tonight, before there is freedom, there has to be justice. Justice is a partner of knowledge. And for there to be knowledge, you have to be informed. If our participation in NFB-NEWSLINE helps you become an informed citizenry, to reach the goals that Dr. Maurer laid out for you tonight, then we truly are honored. Thank you. [applause]
Jacobus tenBroek Award
Near the close of the banquet, Ramona Walhof came to the podium to make the following presentation:
July 6 was Dr. tenBroek's birthday, an appropriate time to recognize him and Hazel tenBroek. Mrs. tenBroek used to take some satisfaction in the work of those who received the award I am about to present.
The Jacobus tenBroek Award was established in 1974 as a means of honoring one of our members who has shown outstanding leadership within the Federation. You will recognize the names and the work of many of those who have been recognized previously: Don Capps, Diane and Ray McGeorge, Mary Ellen Jernigan, Jim Gashel and Betsy Zaborowski, Joyce and Tom Scanlan, Barbara Loos, Jim Omvig, Joanne Wilson, Priscilla Ferris, Betty and Bruce Woodward, Sharon Gold, Sharon Maneki, Allen Harris, and others. What greater tribute could we pay to our founder than to remember him in the work of these leaders?
The individual whom we have selected tonight is again one of our very best. We honor a gentleman who discovered the Federation before many of you here were born. When this man was in law school at Northwestern University in the late 1960's, he met Dr. Jernigan at a meeting about Braille in Chicago. He began immediately to read the Braille Monitor. He joined a local chapter of the Federation in 1974. He then served a year as treasurer and then as president of his local chapter, and in 1978 he was elected president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. [cheers and applause]
Yes! Charlie Brown, come on over here, Charlie. [tremendous cheer behind her words] Charlie was reelected to the Virginia presidency every two years until he had served for twenty-six years. In 1984 he was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. In 2002 and again in 2004 he was elected treasurer. He is a longtime member of the Resolutions Committee, the Scholarship Committee, the Planned Giving Committee, and the lawyers division. Charlie's leadership is thoughtful and firm, imaginative and wise. I attended an NFB of Virginia convention when most of the agenda had to be scrapped. After most of the members arrived on Friday, Virginia had an ice storm, resulting in a sheet of ice about four inches thick on all of the streets, and the speakers just could not get to the convention. As president, Charlie Brown had to create a new agenda Saturday morning. It turned out to be an excellent program, at least as good as the first one he had planned. All the presidents here understand that this took creativity and wisdom.
As an attorney and community leader Charlie has also been outstanding. From 1971 to 1991 he was employed as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor, where he received five achievement awards plus a distinguished career service award after only eleven years. He also received a special commendation from the secretary of labor himself. In 1991 Charlie changed employment, moving to the National Science Foundation as assistant general counsel, where he manages prevention of conflict of interest, ethics, and financial disclosure. He has received two merit awards from the National Science Foundation.
Charlie has also been a
leader in the Rock Spring Congregational Church. He has been a deacon in his
local church, and in 1979 he was elected to the National Board of Homeland Ministries,
the board responsible for missions in the United Church of Christ. He chaired
this board for four years and served on its executive committee. In this capacity
he traveled extensively and was respected nationally.
Charlie has been an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Northern Virginia and was instrumental in securing grants from that club for the education of blind children. He has been appointed by Virginia governors to the state's Olmsted taskforce, where he has worked to see that blind people are integrated into the community. In particular he works to see that blind people stay out of nursing homes when they do not need to be there.
Charlie and his wife Jacki have raised two sons, Stephen and Richard. An outstanding attorney, a leader in civic and church work, and a man who has made immeasurable contributions to the work of the National Federation of the Blind--how could we find a more deserving man? Charlie, we are thrilled to honor you tonight. With this plaque we give you admiration and, even more important, we give you our love. We love you for who you are and what you do. I am going to give him the plaque to hold up, and then I will read it. [applause]
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
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 COLLEAGUE WITH RESPECT. WE CALL YOU OUR FRIEND WITH LOVE.
JULY 6, 2006
Following tumultuous applause, in a shaken voice Charlie Brown said:
I am stunned. I had no idea, and I wouldn't have believed it if…. No! When I first joined the Federation, I thought a lot about it because I am one of those blind people with low vision, and I had to think about the way the world was. I won't talk to you about it tonight; you can talk to me sometime about it. But I recognized the way the world really is and what blindness really is and why I belonged in the National Federation of the Blind. Shortly after I got involved--I didn't know much about the history--Jim Gashel talked me into working on a case. I ended up reading a lot of the writings of Dr. tenBroek. Between you and me, folks, I don't think I could have held his coat--a true visionary genius, and we all see the results of that tonight with all of the wonderful accomplishments of this organization and the wonderful scholarship winners we have met.
I do not consider myself a role model. I don't consider myself many of the things that many of you out there are every day. Yet I have worked hard at it, as one should do when it comes to something that one takes seriously--whether it is this or the church or the raising of a family. But in this case I have received much more. So the idea that you would then give me an award on top of everything else that I have received from this organization is daunting indeed. I thank all of you for everything you have done for me and all of you for giving me this award. Thank you again, very, very much. [applause and cheers]