President Maurer stands outdoors in academic gown, hood, and mortar board with tassle. He is holding his cane in one hand and a bound Braille copy of his commencement speech in the other
President Marc Maurer on the campus of Menlo College
PHOTO/CAPTION: Left to right Tony Coelho, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities; James Waddell, President of Menlo College; Jim Willows, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California; Fredric Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and President and Mrs. Maurer
President Maurer Honored
by Barbara Pierce
In the late morning of May 9, 1998, the friends and families of the graduating seniors at Menlo College in Atherton, California, began gathering on the lush campus preparatory to the 2:00 p.m. commencement ceremony. The scene was similar to thousands that took place across the country throughout the late spring.
But for members of the National Federation of the Blind the Menlo College ceremony was different. For one thing Dr. Fredric Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and Tony Coelho, one of the authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Chairman of the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, were the most prominent of many dignitaries present from the disability field. Also present was Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri at Columbia, who has written extensively about the blindness field and has drawn on President Maurer's writings.
Menlo College is a small four-year institution founded about seventy years ago in the Silicon Valley. Its emphasis is on business, and it maintains a special relationship with nearby Stanford University in Palo Alto. A member of the Packard family, of Hewlett Packard fame, sits on the college's board of trustees, and the HP Foundation has actively supported a number of college projects through the years.
The commencement speaker at the 1998 Menlo College graduation ceremony was Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind and recipient that day of the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. Those familiar with President Maurer's writings would have recognized many of the ideas in the speech, for it was vintage Federation philosophy, offered to the graduates as a way for them to set and achieve their own goals in the years to come.
At 11:00 a.m. the college president, Dr. James Waddell, hosted a brunch honoring the Maurers. Jim Willows, President of the NFB of California, shared master-of-ceremonies duties with Dr. Waddell at the event and facilitated group discussion over the meal. A number of NFB of California leaders were invited to this celebration and helped educate college dignitaries about blindness and the work of the Federation.
It was clear from the comments of Menlo College officials and from the text of the citation presented to President Maurer that the members of the Honorary Degree Committee had done their homework. They clearly recognized the importance of the NFB's work and Marc Maurer's contribution to it. They had also read the Kernel Books. Here is the text of the citation presented to President Maurer:
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa
May 9, 1998
Marc Maurer, distinguished graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Indiana School of Law; internationally respected President of the National Federation of the Blind; erudite legal counsel to nonprofit organizations; insightful author and articulate speaker; master of informational technology and chain saw expert; recipient of the United States Presidential Medal for Leadership, the Heritage Award from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Leadership Award from the Black Caucus of Maryland; committed family member and community servant: Menlo College lauds you for your extraordinary educational, legal, and service accomplishments to make our world a place of independence, respect, and dignity.
Menlo College, therefore, with great esteem, calls you into the fellowship of its scholars, students, and alumni by admitting you to the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
We can all feel pride at the honor bestowed by Menlo College upon the President of the National Federation of the Blind and pride, too, in knowing that the NFB's message of hope and opportunity in the future for all people, the blind included, was articulated on that day of celebration with clarity and wit.