The Hadley School for the Blind Presents Annual Student Awards

The Winnetka-based school honored eight students for their outstanding achievement in their studies.

Information provided by The Hadley School for the Blind. 

The Hadley School for the Blind presented awards to six students at the school’s Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Skokie Country Club in Glencoe on Oct. 18.

Each year, Hadley instructors and faculty choose eight students to honor for their outstanding achievement in their studies. Hadley has formally presented student awards for more than 50 years. 

Henry Malmquist of Lansford, Pa. received the Student of the Year Award. Malmquist served in the United States Army and Air Force for twenty-three years, retiring as a Staff Sergeant. He also worked as a woodworker, in electronics and as a photographer. In 2004, Henry had a stroke, causing him to lose a kidney and his sight. He credits Hadley’s “Using Excel” and “Economics” courses with giving him the ability to manage his money and be a smarter shopper. 

“When I lost my sight, I thought life was over, but The Hadley School for the Blind has given me a reason to live,” says Malmquist. 

Debra Bray of British Columbia, Canada received the Richard Kinney Challenge of Living Award. This award is given to a student with multiple disabilities who displays outstanding courage and educational initiative. 

Bray lost some of her hearing at age five and is legally blind due to glaucoma. Her favorite Hadley courses include “Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness,” “Safety in the Home” and “The Human Eye.”  She has also utilized the “Using Excel” course in her job at the Trail Public Library. 

“The Hadley instructors are all very good teachers, and they are always willing to answer any questions I have or help in any way they can,” says Bray.  

Darrin Cheney of Weiser, Ida.  received the Braille Student of the Year Award. Cheney won this award for his passion and dedication to learning braille. 

Cheney tried to learn braille twice before, but it wasn’t until he took Hadley’s braille courses that he really mastered it. He has now completed all four of Hadley’s braille literacy courses. As president of a statewide ACB (American Council of the Blind) affiliate, Cheney uses his braille skills to keep notes, organize files and correspond with members in braille. 

“I am grateful for Hadley and humbled to receive this award. My goal is to share this award with others and encourage them so their lives can be changed forever as the six dots have done for me,” says Cheney. 

Sylvia Stinson-Perez of Port Richey, Fla. received the Dean. W. Tuttle Professional Education Award. Stinson-Perez won this award for her passion and commitment to her work in the blindness field. As a vision rehabilitation specialist and executive director of the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind in Florida, Stinson-Perez has utilized several Hadley courses as well as Seminars@Hadley to enhance her skills and maintain her credentials. 

“Hadley courses provide a resource for lifelong learning, which can help individuals and their families adapt to vision loss, develop skills for independence and motivate persons to live a more fulfilling life,” says Stinson-Perez. 

Gail Gilchrist of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada received the Robert J. Winn Family Education Award. Gilchrist won this award for her efforts to educate herself and her family members about her son’s visual impairment. When Gilchrist’s son, Liam, was born premature and she learned that he would be visually impaired, she turned to Hadley for support and knowledge. Her favorite courses have been in braille. Gilchrist began her career teaching Early French Immersion and was inspired by Liam to become a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. She is also working toward becoming a certified braille transcriber. 

“As a parent, I want my son Liam to know that there are no limitations. With the right attitude, drive and determination, he can do anything he wants to do. The Hadley courses have allowed me to better understand what I need to know so that I can best guide him on his way,” says Gilchrist. 

Paula LeMaire of Ocean Springs, Mo. received the Donald Wing Hathaway Lifelong Learning Award. This award is given to a student displaying a passion for learning over the course of many years. 

As a child, LeMaire attended the Louisiana State School for the Visually Impaired. Because of her visual impairment and other challenges, she was unable to finish high school. This past spring, she earned her high school diploma through Hadley. 

As a busy mom who raised three children and now has four grandchildren, LeMaire appreciates that she was able to complete Hadley courses at her own pace. She found her instructors very patient and compassionate, always willing to give extra help. 

“The choice I made to go after my diploma was not only for myself but for my children. I wanted them to think, ‘If mom can finish school, then so can I,’ and they all have,” says LeMaire 

Padmaja Rao of Bengaluru, India was not present at the ceremony, but received the International Student of the Year Award. 

A lifelong volunteer, Rao was inspired to begin a career in vision rehabilitation after her diagnosis with Retinitis pigmentosa to help others cope with some of problems she faced after her vision loss. She has taken several of Hadley’s Professional Studies courses. Her favorite was “Learning Through Play,” which taught her how to teach parents or caregivers of blind children how to help a child best utilize any remaining vision they have. 

“Hadley has given me abundant, user-friendly information to use in a rehabilitation setting. The courses have helped me structure my experiential learning and put it into practice,” says Rao. 

Geraldine Lawhorn of Chicago, Ill.  received the Hadley President’s Award for her work and leadership on behalf of individuals who are blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind. A Hadley instructor for 45 years, Lawhorn currently teaches “Elements of Poetry.” Lawhorn, who by age 19 had lost her sight and hearing, was the first African-American deaf-blind individual to earn a college degree, receiving a bachelor’s from Northeastern Illinois University in 1983. An accomplished actor, poet and pianist, she has performed at Carnegie Hall, made numerous television appearances and received many awards and honors, including the Richard J. Daley Citizen of the Year Award from IL Lions District 1-A. 

“It has always been a joy to attend the annual meetings every year to award our students for their learning progress.  I have been privileged to have the opportunity to work at the Hadley School and am honored to receive this award,” says Lawhorn. 

“We are very proud of all our award winners. Each of their stories is inspiring and is exemplary of Hadley’s mission to promote independent living,” says Hadley President Chuck Young.

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