Braille Monitor                                                    August/September 2008

(back) (contents) (next)

Awards Presented at the 2008 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind

From the Editor: In the National Federation of the Blind we present awards only as often as they are deserved. This year two were presented during the annual meeting of the NFB board of directors. One more was made during the banquet. In addition the Bolotin Awards were presented for the first time this year. A complete report of those presentations appears elsewhere in this issue. In addition, the NFB Access Plus (A+) Awards were presented during the Thursday morning convention session. A report of those awards appears in “The Convention Roundup.” Here is the report of the educator awards and the tenBroek Award:

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

Brigid DohertyJoyce Scanlan: Good morning, fellow Federationists. Our committee consists of Allen Harris, Carla McQuillan, Adelmo Vigil, and Dr. Ed Vaughan. I serve as chair of this committee. The committee has indeed selected a most worthy person as the 2008 distinguished educator of blind children. But first let me describe briefly the purpose of this prestigious award. The Federation is very concerned that blind children receive an education of the highest quality, and to provide that education, we need to seek out and give recognition to those teachers who meet the highest standards. We identify such educators and bring them to our national convention to participate and to share their skill and knowledge and to expose them to blind children and adults so they can understand the importance of their work in shaping the lives of blind adults.

This year’s recipient is highly deserving of the award. She has high academic qualifications with a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies and a master’s degree in special education with concentration in orientation and mobility. She is praised highly by her colleagues. But in addition, she is one of us, a Federationist. Now who is she? She is Brigid Doherty, [applause] Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2008.

She was a scholarship winner in the Federation and has been involved in several state affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind for a number of years. Brigid Doherty has been an education coordinator in the Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired for the state of Virginia since 2005. Probably her most outstanding quality is her philosophy as a Federationist, which she incorporates into her teaching in many ways. She makes certain that the subject of Braille is brought into the discussion at the IEP [individualized education plan]. What specific technology is needed? How can the student best prepare for a future of independence and productivity? Who is a blind child working with to ensure all educational techniques are being considered and given appropriate attention? She asks the key questions that will make the difference between success and failure in a blind child’s future.

It is Brigid Doherty who is willing to go the extra mile to make sure each blind student’s specific needs are met. She’s the one to point out that the blind child needs to be aware that, when the college years come along, the responsibility for books and travel skills and everything related to carrying out daily living will rest with the blind student and no longer with the teacher. And this is all very important as Brigid has had a case load of five hundred kids between the ages of birth and twenty-two. She is not only a competent and caring teacher; Brigid Doherty is a most compassionate person with a keen sense of her role as a teacher.

We’re very proud to name Brigid Doherty as our Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. As our winner Brigid has earned an expense-paid trip to this convention. She will be speaking about her teaching philosophy with respect to blindness at a meeting this afternoon of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. As a bonus for us, Brigid is this year, as she has for many years in the past, taking responsibility for teen hospitality during the convention—a most laudable undertaking, I would say. I have here for you, Brigid, a check for $1,000 and a plaque. I will present Brigid with the plaque, and then I will read what is inscribed on the plaque. It reads:




July 2008

Congratulations, Brigid. [applause] Before I introduce Brigid, I want to let our Federationists know about the career change that Brigid is embarking upon. It can be said that, whatever job change may come about in a teacher’s life, that teacher will always be a teacher, regardless of the job title. Brigid has recently taken a position in which she will be instructing blind people in the Washington, D.C., area to use Metro transit, a very important and much-appreciated job. So congratulations, Brigid, on the new job and being named Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for this year. We are very proud to have you as one of our own.

Brigid Doherty: Thank you so much, Joyce, Dr. Maurer, fellow Federationists. I am honored beyond words, and I cannot tell you how much this means to me. I just want to let you know that I am grateful for the education that I received from everyone in the Federation here and those who aren’t with us. I learned from all of you that we hold this truth to be self-evident: that it is respectable to be blind. When I come to convention--and this is fifteen years in for me--and see how many kids we have walking around with white canes, how many are carrying their technology, as Dr. Maurer said in his talk to them the other morning, they are what’s important, not their technology. But, by gum, they know how to use it, and they know how to use it young. They know how to use those canes, and they know that they are just fine. That’s because of each and every one in this room. I am grateful to you. It is an honor to be part of this family, and I promise, no matter what my job is, to continue to do my part and to reach out and teach the new folks coming in and teach those of our supporters and friends outside of the Federation that it is respectable to be blind, and that we are able and capable, and we have fun while we’re doing it. Welcome to convention, and thank you for this wonderful honor. [applause]

Blind Educator of the Year Award

Eddie Bell poses with his plaque while Fred Schroeder (left) and David Ticchi (right) look on.David Ticchi: I would like to thank the committee. On our blind educator committee we have Sheila Koenig (Minnesota), Judy Sanders (Minnesota), Adelmo Vigil (New Mexico), and Ramona Walhof (Idaho). Thank you to the committee members. I’ll tell you now a little bit about the award; then I will give you an announcement about who the winner is and a little bit about the individual. I will then ask the person to come up to receive the plaque and a $1,000 check that goes along with it. The National Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the national organization of blind educators to pay tribute to a colleague’s performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the National Federation of the Blind.

In 1991 this was made a national award which was presented here on the floor of this morning at the board meeting because of the importance of the impact that good teachers have on their students, faculty, community, and in fact all blind Americans. And it is given in the spirit of our founders who were educators and who nurtured this organization until today, people like Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer, who through their teaching, leadership, guidance, and advocacy have given us the wonderful organization we have today, known as the National Federation of the Blind.

So that’s a little background on the award. I will now tell you a little bit about this year’s winner of the award, and I won’t keep you in suspense because, as soon as I begin to tell a little bit about this background, people will recognize who this individual is, and I think you will agree that it is a wonderful choice. The winner of this year’s Blind Educator of the Year Award is Dr. Eddie C. Bell. [applause]

Eddie Bell has a PhD, which he received from the University of Arkansas in rehab education and research in 2004. From the Louisiana Tech University he received his master’s in educational psychology teaching O&M, and he has a bachelor’s degree from Cal State San Marcos. Eddie is a certified rehabilitation counselor, holds a certificate in educational statistics and research methods, and is a certified O&M instructor. He is currently the director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at the Louisiana Tech University, where he counsels, directs research, advises and teaches grad students, and coordinates all activities at the institute. He has consulted and worked in a variety of fields in areas from VR to tactile projects with the National Braille Press. He has worked with the states of Hawaii, Maryland, Iowa, and Louisiana and has done projects with the Jernigan Institute. I could go on. He has served as moderator of panels, published articles (he coauthored an article that should be coming out later this year). He has been an officer in the NFB, has been active in the student division, and has been a tenBroek Fellow.

You know, Eddie, as I was going over these notes, it brought to mind what sometimes people say about good baseball players. They have five tools; they can run, can hit with power, can hit for average, and can catch and throw the ball. Eddie, you are the consummate professional because you have at least five tools. You are a teacher, administrator, researcher, supervisor, and counselor--ultimately, as I say, a consummate educator. Eddie is married to Maria and has two daughters, Victoria and Samantha. Eddie, I want to present you this plaque. I will read the plaque:

The Blind Educator of the Year
Presented to
Dr. Edward C. Bell

In recognition of outstanding
Accomplishments in the teaching profession.

You enhance the present,
You inspire your colleagues,
You build the future.
July 1, 2008

Also, here is a check for $1,000 and, from all of us, congratulations and our best wishes for continued success in all that you do. [applause]

Eddie Bell: Thank you, Dr. Ticchi. Thank you to all of you. If it wasn’t for Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and Dr. Maurer, none of us would have what we have here today. I have been incredibly blessed by each and every one of you in this organization. I had a very rocky childhood and rocky start to my profession, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mentors and friends in this organization and without each and every one of you. All my accomplishments really are a reflection of the work that we need to do, the accomplishments that we have already made, and how much more there is to do. I appreciate this award very much. I commit to all of you to continue work as long as I am on this earth to advance the efforts of this organization. Thank you very much. [applause]

Jacobus tenBroek Award

Ramona Walhof holds the tenBroek plaque while Gary Wunder prepares to address the audience.Ramona Walhof: Our founder was an outstanding teacher and leader. In his memory we established the Jacobus tenBroek Award to honor members of the Federation who have been and are outstanding leaders of the blind. This award need not be given every year, only as often as there is someone who merits very special national recognition. It has been presented twenty-four times to individuals from fifteen states. Last year the sneaky committee chose to honor me with this award, and I was and am both humbled and proud.

This year the committee consists of Joyce Scanlan, Jim Omvig, and me. After careful consideration we have selected one among us you all know and love, one who deserves to be singled out for recognition and honor. This individual first joined the organization in the 1970s and moved very quickly into a leadership role. He learned of the Federation during high school and joined a new chapter during his freshman year of college. He was elected president of that chapter, and two years later, when he transferred to Central Missouri State University, he organized another new chapter in Warrensburg. Yes, I am talking about Gary Wunder. [applause]

Gary was elected first vice president of the NFB of Missouri in 1977 and president in 1979. He has been re-elected president every two years ever since, except for one term when he did not run. In 1985 he was elected to the NFB board of directors and continued to serve in that position until 2002 when he was elected secretary of the NFB. At this convention he was elected to his fourth term in that office. This is an admirable record, but it only scratches the surface of the leadership Gary Wunder has given in the Federation.

He graduated from Central Missouri State University with a degree in electronics technology. Then he was the first blind student enrolled in a course of computer programming at the extension division of the University of Missouri. He was hired in 1978 by the Pathology Department of the University Hospital as a computer programmer. Thirty years later he has received many promotions and continues to be employed by the University Hospitals and Clinic, now as a senior analyst in the Information Services Department. His knowledge of computers and technology has affected the lives of countless blind people who have pursued careers working in various capacities with computers. I'm sure we have no idea how many. Gary Wunder has helped craft new approaches as this field has changed very rapidly during the last thirty years. He has written many articles and presented testimony on numerous occasions. As an example, Gary addressed the hearing of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, a part of the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives, regarding the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act to private Internet sites. Considerable experience and understanding are required for a person to be able to do this, but the National Federation of the Blind depends on Gary Wunder as one of very few who can lead the way for the blind to have access to employment and information in the twenty-first century.

Gary's leadership is not limited to computers and technology. He works with families of blind people with insight and caring. He served on and chaired the Missouri Rehab Council for as long as the rules permitted. He has served on the NFB scholarship committee for more than two decades and on the NFB resolutions committee for as long. He was appointed by President Maurer as the first chairperson of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award committee. And wasn't that a wonderful series of presentations he made this afternoon! Probably everyone here has read his articles on many different aspects of blindness in the Braille Monitor. If you look in this convention agenda, you will notice that Gary Wunder chairs the Webmasters group and the promotion, evaluation, and advancement of technology committee, and he chaired the nominating committee. That's a lot of work at one convention, but it is typical of Gary to do it calmly and with excellence. So, Gary, for what you are and who you are, the National Federation of the Blind has chosen to honor you in 2008 with our respect, our love, and our congratulations. Here is your plaque.

Jacobus tenBroek Award
National Federation of the Blind
Presented to
Gary Wunder

For your dedication, sacrifice, and Commitment
on behalf of the blind of this nation.

the contribution is measured not in steps,
but in miles, not by individual experiences,
but by your impact on the lives of the blind of America.

Whenever we have asked, you have answered.
We call you our colleague with respect.
We call you our friend with love.
July 4, 2008

Gary Wunder: Okay, I get to make lots of presentations, and sometimes I’m a little nervous, and sometimes I’m a little scared, but I’m almost never choked up, but I am now. I sort of supposed that, if the Federation ever gave me an award, it would be given posthumously, in which case I could sort of look down (hopefully down), enjoy the ceremony, but not be expected to say very much.

Well, the National Federation of the Blind has meant a great deal to me in my life. It has expanded what I thought I could do as a blind person. It has given me tremendous purpose beyond what I would have had if my job were only being a programmer analyst. And it has given me a kind of love that I would never have expected. Thank you. I appreciate it very much. I love all of you, and I appreciate more than I can tell you what you’ve given me this evening. [applause]

(back) (contents) (next)