Diane told the crowd that she’s decided 90 isn’t enough, and she plans to make 100 years.
Okay, we’ll start planning that party now!
Yes, it’s the 90th birthday of our founder, Diane McGeorge.
“Don’t ever give up!” That was the advice Diane gave to students and everyone else at a celebration of her 90th birthday yesterday at the Colorado Center for the Blind. And Diane never has.
A young blind mother married to a blind man in the early 1950s, she was busy with parenting, PTA, Cub Scouts, and helping out otherwise at her children’s school in Denver while continuing to work as a medical transcriptionist. Her husband, Ray, worked as a machinist and took a leadership role in the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, including serving as its president in the 1960s. Ray died in 2010.
With her children growing up and becoming more independent and Ray’s vision restored by surgery in the early 1970s, Diane began to move into a more active role in the NFB of Colorado, as well as at the national level.
“I was motivated by discrimination,” she recounts of being denied admittance to a movie on 16th Street because of her guide dog. By 1977, she was president of the NFB of Colorado, a position she held until 2005.
It was in that role that she worked on important legislative efforts to benefit the blind in Congress and the Colorado General Assembly. She served on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of the Blind for nearly two decades in several officer positions, was arrested more than once and removed from commercial airplanes when those airlines illegally refused her the right to fly with her guide dog, and was a principal organizer for demonstrations at meetings of the National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accrediting agencies for the blind across the nation who abused blind workers and exploited them by paying less than minimum wages. She crisscrossed the country helping build chapters and state affiliates, and she and Ray brought hundreds of new members into the National Federation of the Blind with their warmth and genuine friendship, while serving as strong and successful role models and mentors.
But she had another, difficult to achieve dream – to start a training center for the blind in Colorado that was founded in the belief that blind people could achieve their own dreams if they could receive blindness training based in that belief. It would be a training center that had high expectations of its students and truly believed that all things were possible for blind people.
After several years of planning, fundraising, lobbying, and marketing, The doors of the Colorado Center for the Blind opened with five students on January 5, 1988. Diane McGeorge was then 55 years old. For many years, the work became that of surviving and growing in a blindness rehabilitation environment that was deeply hostile to the concept of blind people taking charge of their own destinies. But Diane didn’t give up, nor did the NFB of Colorado or the National Federation of the Blind. Along with sister NFB training centers in Louisiana and Minnesota, the positive work for the blind at CCB resulted in gaining respect and began to slowly change the face of other blindness programs all across the country.
“This center is my legacy,” she told the crowd of staff and students and members of the Tuesday Seniors group yesterday.
“You all make my life more complete,” Diane told us after we sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
Back at you a thousand times, Diane!