At the 15th anniversary celebration of its Henderson Society Feb. 27, the Center for the Visually Impaired honored the late Dr. Jerome Berman and his extraordinary support of children who are visually impaired.
Dr. Berman, who was a member of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, passed away in May at the age of 93, but the work he did on behalf of CVI, and the financial support he gave to the organization during his lifetime, continues to have a profound impact on the children and families served by CVI, according to Andy Kauss, chairman of the board.
Dr. Berman served the Atlanta community as a pediatrician for 36 years until he lost his eyesight in 1982. “My dad lost his vision suddenly due to a routine procedure. He saw patients on Friday, had the procedure on Saturday, and never went back to his medical practice,” said Karen Berman, Dr. Berman’s daughter. “When he went blind, we all went through a depression. But things got better when he started his training at CVI.” This proved to be the beginning of an extraordinary partnership between Dr. Berman and the center.
While receiving rehabilitation training at CVI, Dr. Berman noticed there were no children being served, and asked the executive director of the organization, Carolyn Kokenge, about programs geared to the youth. She told him “‘If you can raise the money, you can open the program.’ And Jerry went out and raised the money!” according to Anne McComiskey, co-founder of the Babies Early Growth Intervention Network program at CVI.
Dr. Berman’s efforts helped start BEGIN in 1985. It serves infants and toddlers who are visually impaired and their families.
Dr. Berman’s initial role was fundraising, and over the years, he delivered more than 700 speeches for United Way in support of CVI. He served as the volunteer medical consultant, providing his expertise even after he became blind, McCominsky told the AJC for his obituary. “Though he was no longer practicing, his blindness didn’t take away his knowledge and guidance. He’d walk into a room with his warmth and sense of humor and people would want to talk. People gained hope when they saw this funny, handsome doctor.”
In his 2003 memoir, Dr. Berman said that his association with the BEGIN program was the “zenith” of all of his professional experiences.
“His legacy lives on at CVI as BEGIN continues to thrive,” Kauss said. “Through early intervention, BEGIN provides both early education and the foundation for productive ongoing educational progress for impacted infants, toddlers and preschoolers, as well as being a compassionate and expert resource for their parents and teachers. Building on the foundation established by Dr. Berman, CVI has continued to grow and expand its services for children with visual impairment and their families in exciting ways.”