A proud father of four, Gary Wunder serves as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, and the editor of the Braille Monitor, the flagship publication of the National Federation of the Blind. The first five years of his public education were conducted in the public schools of Kansas City, Missouri. He attended both the University of Missouri at Columbia and Central Missouri State University, taking a degree from the latter institution in electronics technology.
Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen is an associate professor in the Department of English at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Her research interests include xenolinguistics, phonetics, braille, language preservation, TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), language creation, and disability studies. She has even lectured at SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) about the notion of communicating with extraterrestrials who may not have vision. Dr. Wells-Jensen also coordinates BGSU’s graduate certificate in TESOL and teaches courses in general linguistics, applied phonology and applied syntax. She is a founding member of the Grande Royale Ukulelists of the Black Swamp and coordinates ESOL classes in Bowling Green.
After earning a Masters of Social Work from Smith College, Debbie Stein took a job in community mental health on New York City’s Lower East Side. Later she traveled to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, during which time she published her first young-adult novel, Belonging. While living in Mexico, Stein also helped found the Centro de Crecimiento, a school for children with disabilities. Upon returning to the US, Stein continued with her writing career, writing fiction and nonfiction for young-adult readers. Stein recently edited “Crooked Paths Made Straight,” the autobiography of Isabelle Grant, the blind California teacher who in the 1950s became a world-circling blindness ambassador. Stein lives in Chicago with her husband, children’s author R. Conrad (Dick) Stein, and is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind
A historian of international conflict, Dr. Shore is the author of five books, including A Sense of the Enemy. Shore is Associate Professor of History at the Naval Postgraduate School and Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He earned his doctorate in modern history at Oxford, performed postdoctoral research at Harvard, and held a fellowship at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
Dr. Sacks is recently retired from her post as Superintendent of the California School for the Blind. During her tenure, Dr. Sacks led a staff of 150 and promoted education excellence for students served on campus and through outreach programs throughout the state. Prior to her role as superintendent, Dr. Sacks was the Director of Curriculum, Assessment, & Staff Development at CSB. After receiving her doctorate, Sharon coordinated programs, and was a university professor in moderate/severe disabilities at San Jose State University, and programs in visual impairments at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Sacks worked as a TVI for eight years as a resource and itinerant teacher prior to assuming leadership positions.
She has conducted research, presented nationally and internationally, and published widely in the areas of social skills instruction for students with visual impairments, psycho-social implications of visual impairment, transition programming for students with visual impairments, and strategies to educate students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. Dr. Sacks has provided consultation, assessment, and program evaluation services to schools and agencies serving children and adults with visual impairments.
Dr. Sacks is a strong advocate for ensuring quality services for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired through her direct work with families, consumer organizations, and professional organizations. She is the recipient of the Mary K. Bauman Award for Distinguished Service in Education, and a past president of AERBVI. Dr. Sacks currently serves on the Lighthouse’s Board of Directors.
An accomplished author, Roberts’ acclaimed work, about the intrepid blind traveler (and namesake of this prize) James Holman, “A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler,” was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, long-listed for the international Guardian First Book Award, and named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and Kirkus Reviews. Born in Southern California, Roberts earned his high school diploma at fourteen, then took a five-year hiatus from education. He worked as a day laborer, dishwasher and late-night disc jockey before matriculating at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives in Sausalito, California, with his wife, a chemical engineer, and their two young children.
Dr. Mona Minkara is a computational chemist working in the Siepmann Group at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She completed her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College, earning a dual degree in Chemistry and Middle Eastern Studies, and completed her Ph.D in chemistry at the University of Florida in 2015. For her dissertation, she performed an atomic-level molecular dynamics simulation study of the protein Helicobacter pylori urease. Her work contributed toward the goal of designing a novel drug to treat H. pylori, a gastrointestinal bacteria that infects two-thirds of the world’s population with no existing cure. Dr. Minkara focuses her studies on surface tension and surfactants which have numerous applications related to drug delivery, fragrances, coal mining, and the removal of toxins from water sources. Dr. Minkara has furthermore worked extensively with the non-profit Empowerment Through Integration, providing a robust science-based education for blind and low-vision students in Lebanon and Nicaragua.
Dr. Joshua Miele is an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his BA in Physics and his Ph.D. in Psychoacoustics. He is currently a Research Scientist at The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center in San Francisco, where he has made major contributions to tactile map technology, auditory/haptic display research, audio/tactile graphics techniques and Braille technologies. In addition to his current position on the LightHouse Board of Directors, he has also been a member of the City of Berkeley’s Commission on Disability and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Elderly and Disabled Advisory Committee. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and two young children.
John Heilbrunn, from Denmark, has held countless positions over the years in the field of accessibility. After receiving a degree in electro-acoustics from NYU, he went on to earn his law degree from the University of Copenhagen. Heilbrunn has since worked in various positions in the Danish government, including the Director of Labour Inspection Services and the Director of Social Affairs; he has also served as a liaison between the European Blind Union and the EU. He is currently the Vice-President of the Danish Association of the Blind. Heilbrunn is an impassioned and frequent traveler – he has visited nearly three dozen countries in Asia and Africa alone! At home in Denmark, he has also established a professional recording studio – Mox Studio – and is an active musician, having released several LPs and CD with the Danish band Kester.