The Braille Monitor                                                                              August/September 2005


The 2005 Awards

Presented by the National Federation of the Blind

From the Editor: This year the National Federation of the Blind presented two awards at the July 4 board of directors meeting and two at the July 7 banquet. Here are the presentations as they occurred:

                         Blind Educator of the Year Award

                                         Presented by Steve Benson

Steve Benson and Jerry Whittle shake hands.   Jerry Whittle is holding his Blind Educator of the Year plaque.
Steve Benson and Jerry Whittle shake hands. Jerry Whittle is holding his Blind Educator of the Year plaque.

Thank you, President Maurer, and thank you, members of the selection committee--Sheila Koenig, Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhof--for participating in this yearís deliberation.

The recipient of the 2005 Blind Educator of the Year Award has been described as creative, resourceful, patient, flexible, enthusiastic, motivating, and at times demanding. This yearís honoree expects students to master and use the subject taught. This yearís winner raises student expectations, builds self-confidence, and stretches students beyond what they generally expect of themselves, in the tradition of Doctors tenBroek and Jernigan.

The award committee has selected this year one who has earned considerable recognition for work in the area of curriculum development and implementing teaching techniques that meet the needs of a varied student population. Our winner this year has delivered presentations on effective teaching methods all over the United States. The Blind Educator for 2005 has been an active leader in two Federation state affiliates. He has chaired state and national committees. He has changed the lives of blind and sighted people, adults and children alike.

This outstanding teacher is active in church and community affairs. By every measure this candidate has conveyed our Federation message: with proper instruction and opportunity blind people can succeed in life, just like everybody else. This yearís honoree will receive a check for $1,000 and a plaque that reads:


Presented to


In Recognition of Outstanding Accomplishments
In the Teaching Profession

You Enhance the Present
You Inspire Your Colleagues
You Build the Future.

July 4, 2005

Fellow Federationists, it is my privilege and my enormous pleasure to present the 2005 Blind Educator of the Year Award to Jerry Whittle.

Now, while Jerry is making his way to the platform, let me tell you that he earned a bachelorís degree in English at Clemson University and a masterís degree in English at the University of Tennessee, and, while pursuing a Ph.D., he taught English at the University of South Carolina.

In 1985 Jerry became one of the founding staff members of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, at which time he served as a teacher of Braille and home economics. In her letter of nomination Pam Allen said: ďMr. Whittle has provided guidance for hundreds of students who are struggling to accept blindness and embrace our philosophy. Through his wonderful stories and keen sense of humor, he has challenged his students to confront their fears and pursue their dreams.Ē

Iím told that Jerry Whittle is affectionately called Dr. Dots. So, Dr. Dots, here is a check for $1,000; and here is this very special plaque. Congratulations! Here is Jerry Whittle. [tumultuous applause]

Jerry Whittle: I am deeply honored by this award, and I accept it on behalf of all the NFB center employees who work and sacrifice and give of their time to make the world a better place. I would like to thank some people, if I might: Dr. Capps for finding me when I was hopelessly lost and giving me my life back; and Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, Joanne Wilson, Pam Allen, Diane McGeorge, Joyce Scanlan, Shawn Mayo, and Julie Deden, who have taught me how to work and how to believe and how to sacrifice and give back; and most of all my wife Marilyn [cheers and applause], who gave up her career as an art teacher so that I could come to Louisiana and have a career myself. (God bless her for it.) Finally Iíd like to thank my Lord and Savior for establishing me and strengthening me and using me in ways mysterious to me even to this day. It has been a wonderful experience.

I would also like to say to teachers and parents: insist that your child have Braille instruction and beat upon the wall until they hear you. And, if they donít hear you, weíll beat on the wall for you. And to young men and young women and old men and old women, learn Braille if you havenít done so. Donít wait until youíre thirty-five to learn Braille like I did. Do it now. Itís not the be all and end all of literacy, but whatever is second best is a poor substitute. I would like finally to say dot five v [the word ďloveĒ in Grade III Braille] to all of you. Thank you.


Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

Presented by Sharon Maneki

Merry-Noel Chamberlain displays her Distinguished Educator plaque.
Merry-Noel Chamberlain displays her Distinguished Educator plaque.

Indeed this year the committee does have a distinguished educator who deserves the award because of her merit, her spirit, and her dedication. The committee of Alan Harris, Joyce Scanlan, Dr. Ed Vaughan, and me is pleased to present a lady from the great state of Iowa, Merry-Noel Chamberlain. [prolonged applause] Merry-Noel has a bachelor of science in elementary education from the University of Nebraska. She has a masterís degree in educational psychology from Louisiana Tech University. She has a masterís in teaching children with visual impairments from Western Michigan University, and she has her NOMC certification. Merry-Noel is also studying for her Ph.D. in interdisciplinary health studies from the University of Michigan, and I am sure that she will achieve that goal in 2007 as she has planned.

But she is being recognized this morning, not just for her credentials, impressive as they are, but because of her dedication. Merry is a teacher, not just Monday through Friday, but every day. She particularly gives of her time in the Des Moines chapter with Saturday school. Saturday school, she tells me, is more popular than Monday-through-Friday school.

So, Merry-Noel, first of all I have for you a check for $1,000. We also have a plaque for Merry-Noel. And I am going to read the plaque:

The National Federation of the Blind
Merry-Noel Chamberlain

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children

For your skill in teaching Braille and other alternative techniques of blindness,
For generously donating 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.

Congratulations, Merry-Noel.

Merry-Noel Chamberlain: I would like to thank President Maurer. I would also like to thank the nominating committee and my NFB family, who entered my life at the NFB convention in Texas back in 1998.

But I would not be here today without the experiences I had through the Nebraska Commission for the Blind, Louisiana Tech, the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and of course the Iowa Department for the Blind. I also want to thank my husband for all of his support, not complaining at all when I want to buy that extra little toy or something for one of my students. It is such a wonderful honor to receive this award here today. To be able to touch the lives of my students, to enhance their abilities in the skills of blindness, to enrich their lives through instruction and shared experiences makes this the best career in the world for me. Thank you very, very much.

The Newel Perry Award

Presented by Allen Harris

Allen Harris and Frank Kurt Cylke stand together with Mr. Cylke holding his plaque.
Allen Harris and Frank Kurt Cylke stand together with Mr. Cylke holding his plaque.

Like all of you I have had the benefit of the National Federation of the Blind. I have also had the gift of President Maurerís friendship as you have. Each of us has been fortunate in many ways. Tonight will cause us to reflect on the opportunities, successes, and advances we have made because of the National Federation of the Blind and the perspective we have gained through it.

Yet we understand that we would not have made the progress we have nor would we embrace the future Dr. Maurer outlined without the help of others with whom we have worked and will work. One of the most fulfilling parts of being a member of the National Federation of the Blind is the opportunity to make friends, to partner with people who work with us and share our vision of equality, security, and opportunity.

One of the ways we recognize and commend those who have supported us, who have stood and planned with us, is the presentation of the Newel Perry Award. In bestowing this award, we recognize one who has exerted leadership, one who believes in blind people, who shares with us the foundational convictions of this organization. The award symbolizes our understanding that others have shared our struggle toward equality. Newel Perry was the embodiment of these truths.

It is my privilege tonight to present the Newel Perry award to someone who has been such a friend to us, a person who has worked with us, who has stood side by side with us over the long haul, who without question has contributed much to each of us. I would like to ask Mr. Cylke to step forward please. [enthusiastic applause] It is a real privilege to present this award to Mr. Cylke, who is holding up the plaque, which says:


In recognition of courageous leadership
And outstanding service,
the National Federation of the Blind
Bestows the Newel Perry Award

Frank Kurt Cylke

Our colleague,
Our friend,
Our brother on the barricades;
You champion our progress;
You strengthen our hopes;
You share our dreams.

July 7, 2005

Curt Cylke: Thank you, Allen. I would like to recognize three things. One is the wonderful education I have received over the past thirty years from Dr. Jernigan and Mrs. Jernigan, from Dr. Maurer and Mrs. Maurer, and for the years sitting with Mrs. tenBroek here on the platform. I have learned a great deal and have benefited every second.

I also want to thank the staff at the National Library Service. You see many of them here every year. I hesitate to mention their names because I will leave someone out. You have Tom Bickford and Lloyd Rasmussen and Debbie Brown and all the others, blind and sighted, at the Library of Congress who have really made the program work. That has been a wonderful experience. The only thing left for me to say to you is ďMine eyes have seen the gloryĒ of the blind, please continue on. ďGlory, glory, Federation.Ē [applause]

                                                      The Jacobus tenBroek Award

Presented by Ramona Walhof

Ramona Walhof and Barbara Loos are pictured here.   Barbara holds her plaque.
Ramona Walhof and Barbara Loos are pictured here. Barbara holds her plaque.

This year the National Federation of the Blind has chosen to present our prestigious Jacobus tenBroek award to an outstanding leader in our movement. This award was created in 1974 to be given as often as merit dictates to someone who has made outstanding contributions toward improving the lives of the blind. It has been presented to leaders such as Diane and Ray McGeorge, Donald Capps, Joyce and Tom Scanlan, Jim Omvig, Jim Gashel and Betsy Zaborowski, Joanne Wilson, Tim Cranmer, Mary Ellen Jernigan, and others of our very best. This year's committee consisted of Joyce Scanlan, Jim Omvig, and me. We have selected an individual who will do credit to this award, just as it honors her.

The woman we honor this year has been an active member of the NFB for about thirty years. Before she joined the NFB, she experienced put-downs and ridicule because of blindness from her employer, a rehabilitation agency for the blind. She has worked with the rest of us to establish laws and practices to prevent this kind of cruel and unfair treatment.

The woman we honor tonight is a quiet person, and, as far as I know, she currently holds no office in the Federation, but she is one of our very best leaders. When she is called upon to speak, her words are eloquent and memorable.

I want to tell you about the first time I met tonight's tenBroek award honoree. I was working at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, and she was employed at a nearby state agency. She was in Des Moines to study the programs for the blind there under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. On the second day of her visit it was my pleasure to have her and her colleague to my home for dinner. As we talked, it became clear that within this young woman was a tempest waiting to be released. She asked probing questions about the Federation and our philosophy. She revealed that she had always heard only attacks and negative statements about the organization. However, it was also clear that she was becoming more and more excited about what she was finding that week.

For some reason her visit was being cut short, and she was expected to leave the next day. We talked for several hours, and I did my best to convey the love and depth of knowledge I had found in the Federation. I had young children, but that night they were content to play without much attention, far beyond their normal bedtime. After my guests left, I put the children to bed, and (still excited myself) I called Dr. Jernigan to ask him to meet with these young women the next morning before they left Des Moines. After I hung up the phone, I looked at my watch. It was after 11:00 p.m. Dr. Jernigan went to bed early, and I would never have called him at that hour if I had stopped to think about the time. But the next morning when I arrived at work, I found these two women waiting outside his office to see him. That morning Dr. Jernigan knew that he had discovered a true Federation treasure by the name of Barbara Beach Walker Loos. [prolonged applause]

Barbara Loos, will you make your way to the front please?

Within a few short months of the meeting with Dr. Jernigan, Barbara was elected president of the Lincoln, Nebraska, chapter of the NFB. A year later she was elected president of the NFB of Nebraska, and she was a strong president at a time when that affiliate was growing and changing. But Barbara has never enjoyed that kind of leadership. She prefers to support other principal leaders. So she found a successor. After she married Jim Walker, she worked by his side while he served as president of the NFB of Nebraska for several terms.

Jim Walker died suddenly of a heart attack in 1989, only a few days before the NFB convention. This was a tragedy for all of us, but most especially for Barbara. Nevertheless, hundreds of us remember that Barbara came to the 1989 convention with her two small children, and she took the microphone to thank others for their support in her loss. It was one of the truly dramatic and memorable moments for the entire Federation.

Barbara served another term as president of the NFB of Nebraska, from 1990 to 1992, but as a single mother she felt she must give more time to her growing children. Still she has provided moral support and advice to Federationists in that state and far beyond.

Many people here have heard Barbara Walker Loos speak as president of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. She has served on that board for almost twenty years, and always providing quiet and wise leadership. When the state of Nebraska created its new Commission for the Blind, who better could be found to chair the board? Barbara Walker Loos has been the only chairman from the beginning.

When the NFB of Nebraska received a grant to provide computer instruction to the blind, it turned to Barbara Loos to do the lion's share of the work. When President Maurer needed someone to screen announcements on the platform of our national conventions, he asked Barbara Loos to handle the job. We have all read thoughtful articles in our Kernel Books written by Barbara Walker Loos. But we will never know all the details of her contributions, because she does not speak of them much. She just does what is needed with strength and poise.

But tonight is our opportunity to tell Barbara Loos that we recognize and appreciate her constancy and wisdom. Barbara, we give you this plaque with love and admiration. We know what you are, and we wish to recognize you tonight for what you do and all you are. I am going to read the text of the plaque while she makes her way up here. It is a complex trip.


Presented to
Barbara Loos

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

July 7, 2005

Barbara Loos [obviously weeping]: Fellow Federationists, I canít think of anybody less deserving. I just cannot believe that the small things I have done would amount to something like this. [applause] I know all the people being talked about as having received this award, and I donít feel that I have earned a place beside them. But I love them all, and I love all of you. And I will keep doing whatever I can. I thank you all for the Federation; it has meant so much to me all of my life. If I can give just one little bit of what others have given to me, I guess I will just keep on going. Thank you.