Steve Benson and Dr. Adrienne Asch
Debbie Prost (left) listens as
Sharon Maneki (right) presents the Distinguished Educator of the Year Award.
Betty Niceley (left) presents the
Golden Keys Award to Diane Croft of National Braille Press.
Betty Niceley holds the Jacobus tenBroek Award
plaque while President Maurer looks on.
Awards for 1997
From the Editor: National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention four presentations were made. Here is the way it happened:
Blind Educator of the Year Award
At the Tuesday morning meeting of the Board of Directors, President Maurer called Steve Benson to the microphone to make an award presentation. Steve is a member of the NFB Board of Directors, President of the NFB of Illinois, and Chairman of the Blind Educator of the Year Award Committee. This is what he said:
Thank you, President Maurer, and thank you, also to the selection committee: Homer Page, Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhof. I recently visited DePaul University's new library and found four titles by Jacobus tenBroek. Three are listed in the law library and one in the general collection. We know him as the founder and principal first mover of our organization, but his consummate teaching skills, commitment to scholarship, expertise in the law and the Constitution, and influence in and writings about the welfare system still stand as authoritative sources. Dr.tenBroek was always in demand as a speaker and lecturer. He strongly advocated for the right of the blind to achieve excellence and compete on equal terms with our sighted neighbors.
The recipient of this year's Blind Educator of the Year Award emulates Dr. tenBroek's scholarship and commitment to academics. This winner advocates vigorously for the rights of blind children and adults. Her curriculum vitae extends to more than a dozen pages. She has lectured at universities all over the United States and is in demand as a speaker in her field here and abroad. She has authored many scholarly articles published in professional journals. She has earned genuine distinction in her field. Her name is Adrienne Asch. [applause]
While Adrienne is making her way to the platform, let me tell you she holds a Ph.D. in social work from Columbia University. She has a position at the Hastings Center, a think-tank that shapes policy for the law and medicine. She is the first blind person to occupy such a position. Adrienne demonstrates that blind people can compete on the basis of equality in an area that demands staggering amounts of reading. She has taken a leadership role in the attempt to educate those supporting full inclusion about the rights of blind children for cane and Braille and other things.
Among her long list of writing credits is an article on blindness in the Encyclopedia of Social Work. She serves as a council member of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Division Nine of the American Psychological Association. She served on the President's task force to reorganize the health care system. She is currently serving a five-year appointment to the Henry R. Luce Chair of Biology, Ethics, and the Politics of Human Reproduction at Wellesley College, chosen, by the way, from a highly competitive international field of candidates. It is a most prestigious position--a position of real honor.
So, Adrienne, here is a check for $500 and a plaque, which reads:
Blind Educator of the
National Federation of the Blind
in recognition of outstanding
accomplishments in the teaching profession
You enhance the present
You inspire your colleagues
You build the future
July 1, 1997
Adrienne Asch: I'm overwhelmed. This means more to me than I can possibly say. I care about this organization; I have for a long time. I love the work that I do in it. I love the work that I do in my scholarship and teaching. I can't believe what a joy this is to me--to have the work I've tried to do recognized by this organization. Thank you very much. [applause]
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
A little later in the Board meeting, President Maurer called upon Sharon Maneki, President of the NFB of Maryland and Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, to make a presentation. This is what she said:
The committee of Allen Harris, Jacquilyn Billey, Joyce Scanlan, and myself are pleased to present a truly distinguished educator of blind children. The National Federation of the Blind started this award, I believe, about ten years ago to recognize teachers because the children are our most important investment in the future. Education is the most important vehicle to true equality and opportunity. Sometimes it can be very lonely for a vision teacher in the school system, not because of being the only vision teacher in the system, but sometimes because of very real differences in philosophy.
This morning's recipient is someone who has been teaching for seventeen years. She is an itinerant teacher. She has a certificate in Literary Braille Competency from the Library of Congress, as well as a master's from the University of Virginia. We are recognizing her, not only because of her ability in teaching academic subjects, but because she is an advocate for her students. When there was a debate about whether a student could carry a cane and use it in the classroom, she stood for the student. When there was a debate about a need for Braille or a need for technology, she stood for her students and was able to get them what they needed.
She is truly a role model for her students. She lives her Federationism, not just in the classroom, but every day of the year. She not only teaches, but she expresses her philosophy, and many times students catch it as she lives her life. Join me in congratulating Deborah Prost, a teacher in the Portsmouth, Virginia, School District. [applause]
As Debbie is coming over to the microphone, I want everyone to know that we have a $500 check for Deborah, and I will be giving her the plaque. It reads:
The National Federation
of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children
for your skill in teaching
Braille and the use of the white cane
for generously devoting extra time
to meet the needs of your students
and for inspiring your students
to perform beyond their expectations
You champion our movement
You strengthen our hopes,
you share our dreams
July 1, 1997
Deborah Prost: I want to thank the Federation for this award. It really means a lot to me to get this because I know the Federation is the only organization that really expects the best of students, and I want to continue working and doing everything I can to work with the Federation to help students be the best that they can be. I also thank God for helping me receive this award. I really thank the Federation again.
Golden Keys Award
During the banquet on Friday, July 4, President Maurer called Betty Niceley, President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, to make a presentation. Here is what she said:
It was the growing concern about the steady decline in the use of Braille that led to the establishment in 1984 of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, fondly referred to as NAPUB. This division of the National Federation of the Blind is a vehicle for addressing Braille-related issues. The mission of NAPUB is to promote and encourage the production, teaching, and use of Braille. An integral part of this process is to recognize excellence whenever and wherever it occurs.
The most prestigious award which NAPUB has to offer is the Golden Keys Award, and it is not given lightly. In the organization's thirteen-year history, only two have been given to individuals for unusual dedication to Braille and its availability to the blind. This year NAPUB is presenting the third Golden Keys Award to the National Braille Press. [applause] This is done for its ongoing commitment to Braille and its creativity, which result in unique and innovative ideas for making things happen.
The National Braille Press is well known for the children's book-of-the-month club, which made it possible to purchase Braille books at the same price as the print edition. Not only the Book-of-the-Month Club, but Just Enough to Know Better, the book designed by NBP to help parents learn Braille along with their children, enjoys a continued popularity. Braille copies of the Constitution provided by the National Braille Press probably gave many blind citizens their first chance to look at this historic document. Because of the National Braille Press, cooks all over the country are able to read their own package directions from Kraft Foods and General Mills products.
When computers made the scene, it was the National Braille Press which provided Braille instructional manuals and put in a lot of effort to keep them updated. NBP was there when surfing the Net became the number one hobby of sighted Americans, and the people at NBP dreamed that the same pleasure could be given to blind computer users. The publication by the National Braille Press of the Internet Complete Reference has made it possible for computer users who are blind to reap the rewards of traveling the information superhighway. As a means of addressing the problem of continuing graphics on the Internet, NBP published the Links Reference Guide for blind users, a textbook-based browser which allows a blind person to navigate around the system with Braille or speech access.
In presenting this award, special recognition is given to Diane Croft, Marketing Director for the National Braille Press. [applause] William Rader, the Director, and other employees at NBP contend that Miss Croft is the moving force behind the stream of innovative ideas which make it possible for Braille readers everywhere to enjoy an amazing variety of both educational and fund materials. Mr. Rader suggested that Miss Croft should accept this award for NBP.
The plaque reads in part:
To the National Braille
We present these golden keys in recognition
of ongoing commitment to Braille
and to the readers who depend on it.
Through creativity and innovation
NBP has given to these readers
the keys that unlock doors
to the temple of knowledge.
Miss Croft, on behalf of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, it gives me great pleasure to present our Golden Keys Award to the National Braille Press. [applause]
Diane Croft: Thank you very much. There are thirty hard-working people at the National Braille Press. A lot of people are surprised that there are only thirty. I very much appreciate your recognition of the hard work that they do every day. I'm so pleased to bring this back to them. Thank you very much.
The Jacobus tenBroek Award
Immediately following the presentation to National Braille Press, President Maurer began speaking. This is what he said:
The Jacobus tenBroek Award is given from time to time to one of our own members, but only as often as circumstances warrant. It exemplifies the spirit of our founder and recognizes the reflection of that spirit in the person who receives it. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek had the imagination to believe that blind people working together for the advancement of the blind could accomplish more thananybody else to bring independence and success to the lives of the blind. He had the determination to form the vehicle which would make it possible, the National Federation of the Blind. It is his courage which said, "No matter what the obstacles, we can meet them. No matter what the trials, we will surmount them." And this was not done only for himself, but for all of us--for the blind of the nation. This year we have identified a worthy recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award. The selection committee, whose members are Ramona Walhof, Allen Harris, James Omvig, and Joyce Scanlan, has given to us the name of a leader in the Federation--a blind person who has shared the aspirations of Dr. tenBroek and worked within the Federation for a generation to bring those aspirations to reality. I invite to join me on the podium Betty Niceley. [applause]
Born in 1934, Betty Niceley grew up with her grandparents, who managed a series of country stores in southeastern Kentucky. The family lived beside the stores, doing whatever needed to be done--stocking shelves, filling orders, cashiering. It was good experience for a blind child. At the age of eight Betty Niceley left home to attend the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville, where she got a good education. Later she transferred to Bell County High School, where she received her diploma. Her senior class selected her as queen and voted her the "Person Most Likely to Succeed." Betty Niceley attended Georgetown College in central Kentucky, receiving a bachelor's degree in English and a secondary teaching certificate, but about the same time she was married to Charles. The Niceleys have two daughters and two grandsons.
After leaving college, Betty Niceley found a job at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville. Thirteen years later she left the printing house to accept a job teaching Braille at the rehabilitation center opened by the Kentucky Department for the Blind. When the Kentucky Independent Living Center opened in the fall of 1980, Betty Niceley began teaching Braille, other blindness skills, and travel to the blind of all ages. She also became responsible for public relations and educational programs there.
Betty Niceley first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1967. Within a short time she became Secretary of the state affiliate and President of the Louisville chapter. In 1979 she was elected President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. She was a principal force in the formation of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. She became its first President and serves in that office today. Betty Niceley has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind since 1985.
These are facts about Betty Niceley, and they describe a woman who possesses poise, a record of accomplishment, and a willingness to share her talents. As impressive as this recitation is, it cannot convey the spirit of the person we honor tonight. When a job needs doing, Betty Niceley is there to help. When a plan must be made, Betty Niceley's imagination will be employed to create the understanding we seek to achieve. When a blind person needs consolation or support, Betty Niceley is ready with a loving heart. This is the person who receives our highest honor. This is the 1997 recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award. The award reads:
Jacobus tenBroek Award
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
When we have asked
you have answered.
We call you our colleague with respect
We call you our friend with love
July 4, 1997
Betty Niceley: Now you all know that I do get emotional. . . . Been there, done that, this week. Thank you so very much. I don't know what you can say about being given so much honor for things that come so naturally. For those I love (and that certainly is this group), for those I appreciate (those are my leaders and those who follow me), thank you very much. I assure you that I accept it with love. [applause]