[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dwight Baum]
Meet Dwight Baum:
NEWSLINEŽ Fan and Loyal Supporter of the NFB
by Betsy Zaborowski, Psy.D.
From the Editor: Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, Director of Special Programs for the National Federation of the Blind, first met Dwight Baum when she was working to bring NEWSLINEŽ to the greater Los Angeles area. She thought other Federationists would enjoy getting to know this energetic, talented member of the Federation family. The following is what she says:
Who would have thought that a young man from the Bronx, a recent graduate of Cornell University, would serve his country during World War II as the chief armament officer for the British Royal Air Force, in charge of much of the armament supplied to Britain during the Lend Lease program of the Roosevelt era. This contribution to the war effort later earned Dwight Baum the honor of being named a member of the Order of the British Empire, a rare honor for someone not a British citizen. This was only the first of many opportunities he has seized through the years with an irrepressible spirit still active today, nearly sixty years later.
I met Mr. Baum last May during a visit to the Los Angeles area. His straightforward enthusiasm for the National Federation of the Blind and charming manner were impressive, but his stories about his life and interests were even more captivating. He described looking up at the mountains four years ago. He closed his left eye and noticed clouding in his right eye. Concerned, he consulted his doctor and was told he had macular degeneration and would soon experience even more vision loss. Sure enough, about eighteen months later he lost the central vision in his left eye as well.
Yet at eighty-five he has not let vision loss undermine his many interests. This past April, when I was in L.A. for the NEWSLINEŽ opening, I missed seeing him because he was off to Israel on one of his trips with the People to People Program. When I asked what keeps him going, he responded, "I love life, and I am still on my learning curve."
Mr. Baum is an avid user of recorded books, readers, scanning technology, and yes, he is now even trying speech access on his computer. During our visit last year I showed him NEWSLINEŽ. He thought it was marvelous and soon thereafter gave a grant to the National Federation of the Blind to set up NEWSLINEŽ in the Los Angeles area. His generosity gives thousands of blind people telephone access to the Los Angeles Times as well as several other newspapers.
Mr. Baum has been a supporter of the National Federation of the Blind for many years, even before he lost his vision. He recalled the inspiration and pride he has felt from reading the Braille Monitor through the years. When asked what it is about the Federation that attracts his interest, he says,"It's the efforts to remove barriers for the blind." He goes on to explain further how impressed he has been with our efforts to challenge rehabilitation agencies and educational institutions to improve services by eliminating waste and impediments to the blind. Most inspirational to him were the profiles of our Board of Directors in past Monitors. He was genuinely impressed by the variety of life activities and the scope of talents represented on the Board.
Mr. Baum grew up in the Bronx section of New York. His father was an architect working with the Rockefellers as they restored Williamsburg and other historic sites. Mr. Baum attended Cornell University during the later years of the Depression. Like many of that era, in recalling the suffering of the Depression he reflects, "Although times were hard, we helped each other a lot more than people seem to today."
After graduating from Cornell in electrical engineering, he went on to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard. This summer he will celebrate his sixtieth class reunion at Harvard. Like many others in 1940, he was interested in serving his country. Because of his background in engineering, he was offered a position in the Royal Air Force as an Armament Officer in charge of all the aircraft ammunition and bombs shipped to the RAF from the U.S. during the Lend Lease era and throughout the war.
He recalls this time in our history as exciting. He remembers walking with his fiancee, his childhood sweetheart, past the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., on December 7, 1941, where the staff was burning documents in front of the embassy. For those too young to remember, the date was Pearl Harbor Day.
After the war his long-time interest in finance resulted in a job offer with an old line investment firm in New York, Eastman and Dillon. He began in the buying department but was soon transferred to Los Angeles and later managed the company's entire western regional operation. Years later this company was merged into Paine Webber, and to this day Mr. Baum holds the title of Senior Vice President of Paine Webber, continuing to work part-time for the firm and spending the rest of his time managing his own investments.
Both the Baums' sons are pilots. Jim, the younger, now works with Mr. Baum as his business manager, and his other son John is a pilot with United Airlines. The Baums have two grandchildren. I asked Mr. Baum why he continues to work so many hours. He said, "It's simple; I am one of the fortunate ones. I love my hobby, which happens to be my work."
Besides his interest in finance, Mr. Baum finds time to travel extensively, converse with people all over the world on his ham radios, and often counsel people who are losing their vision to become involved with the National Federation of the Blind.
He hopes to encourage others to support the Federation's efforts to expand NEWSLINEŽ throughout the country. For Mr. Baum NEWSLINEŽ is access. He always turns first to the financial section of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Then he goes on to the Metropolitan section to learn what is happening in his native New York or enjoys general interest articles on topics he would not ordinarily read. Mr. Baum has always been an avid reader. Now, when his wife of over fifty years Hildegarde is watching television, he listens to NEWSLINEŽ or recorded books.
Mr. Baum is truly a good friend of the blind, a man too busy living and helping others to worry about himself. We salute Dwight Baum and thank him sincerely for his many generous gifts over the years and particularly for the contribution which made NEWSLINEŽ a reality in the Los Angeles area. We commend him for his willingness to support the blind both financially and personally by encouraging newly blind people to join our organization. He is truly an example to all, a gentleman who values the spirit and mission of the National Federation of the Blind.