by Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: The following is another in our series of historical documents in the Jacobus tenBroek Library.
Diane McGeorge has been a fixture of the Federation for many years, during which time she has served the movement in many ways. The lengthy list of leadership roles she has occupied for over thirty years includes affiliate president of the NFB of Colorado (1976 to 1991 and 1995 to 2005), member of the NFB board of directors (1977 to 2004), NFB first vice president (1984 to 1992), and long-standing logistical overseer of the Washington Seminar. In addition to this she is the dynamic founder of the Colorado Center for the Blind, a training facility rooted in the positive philosophy of the NFB, which she directed from its founding in 1988 until 1999. These days McGeorge may be best known as the door prize maven—and President Maurer’s main competition for the microphone—during the general session of the NFB annual convention. But no matter which role she has played in your life, it is safe to say that few if any NFB members today do not know of Diane McGeorge, her bright smile, her warm voice, and her tireless work for the organized blind movement.
What newer Federationists may not know is that during the early days of her involvement with the NFB, McGeorge’s outgoing personality was at times upstaged by her faithful and precocious guide dog Pony. With a name like “Pony,” perhaps inevitably this guide dog made a big impression on people everywhere that he went, and even now the simple mention of his name calls forth fond memories. Patricia Maurer recently remarked that McGeorge has always done a wonderful job handling her guide dogs, but, “Pony once in a while was just a dog. I remember Pony eating a stick of butter from the bottom shelf on a cart during a dinner event. At a state convention Pony snatched a doughnut from a chair. After all, it was at Pony’s level.” But, in spite of these canine antics, she remembers Pony as a good, well-trained guide dog who knew how to work and was loved by many.
Even Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, known to prefer using a cane, was moved to comment about this friendly creature in the May 1976 edition of the Braille Monitor. He declared that, “[A]lthough I do not use a dog myself, (preferring a cane), I am not `anti-dog.’ Ask Diane McGeorge. She can tell you that I would fight for Pony, and (by the way) he would fight for me.” Given such a touching declaration, it wasn’t long before Dr. Jernigan received an undoubtedly unexpected response innocently tucked behind an update on the state of the Colorado affiliate from McGeorge on May 25, 1976. Now, carefully preserved as part of the institutional records of the National Federation of the Blind, here is the letter:
Dear Mr. Jernigan,
I want to thank you for being so kind as to mention me in the May Monitor as well as on the presidential release. (Bark, bark). In addition, I feel it is my duty to report on Diane’s progress as state president, so, if I say anything self incriminating, please be prepared to rush to my defense. (Lick, lick). There have been no threats of chapter dissolution, so I suppose she’s doing a fairly decent job, and, though making herself heard is the least of her problems, she relies heavily on her ghost writers to assist in correspondence etc., but please remember, all this is in the strictest confidence. After all, if I don’t stay in her good graces, she might cut down on my chow rations, and I don’t have to tell you how unbearable that would be.
I will continue in advising her on the most important issues, and hopefully she will be wise enough to follow my suggestions. I am a quiet soul, but a loving one, and it has been my experience most people respond to love. This is not to say that I would ever walk away from the barricades. I am a Federationist through and through, and I am constantly doing my best to live down my humble beginnings in that unmentionable training school [Leader Dogs of Michigan, immortalized in Federation history by inclusion of the song, “Leader Dawg,” which is often played as part of the wake-up concert at the National Center for the Blind.].
Since this is my first attempt at self expression, I’m about to drool on the paper from fatigue and excitement, so I shall close for now. I’d hate to spoil my message with paw prints.