Dear LightHouse Family,
Last week we learned of the passing of Cathy Skivers, one of the longest-lived and most influential leaders in the California blindness community. I’ve known Cathy for more than 20 years, and in that time we developed a special respect and love for one another. I worked especially closely with her 18 years ago as she played a key part in assembling the Blind Alliance for Rehab Change, which eventually succeeded in passing SB105, creating a specialized division within the Department of Rehabilitation for the blind and deaf. Cathy followed with interest the growth and expansion of LightHouse, and even in her 90s attended the Braille Challenge here.
In 2018 LightHouse awarded Cathy one of its highest honors, the Newel Perry Award. We simply couldn’t think of another Californian who had devoted fully 70 years in activism on behalf of the blind. Read the full text of the program accompanying the award, below.
I had the honor of speaking with Cathy just a few days before she passed. Cathy repeated the wish she often expressed to me, that she promised Dr. Perry at the end of his life that she would work to unify the factionalism in the California blindness community. She urged me and LightHouse to continue our work to be a place open and welcoming to all blind people of all ideologies and perspectives. It’s a charge LightHouse will continue to champion as we inherit part of this great woman’s legacy.
Bryan Bashin, CEO
LightHouse for the Blind
P.S. We are privileged to have in the archives an interview Cathy gave to several LightHouse employees about her longstanding relationship with California blindness leader Newel Perry. You can can download the interview here or listen to it below.
THE NEWEL PERRY AWARD
For nearly 60 years, Newel Perry originated, organized and led the blindness movement in California and beyond. Dr. Perry became blind as a child in rural northern California in the 1870s, was the first blind graduate of Berkeley High School in 1892, went on to academic distinction at UC Berkeley and eventually earned a doctorate in advanced mathematics in Germany. Nearly all of the pivotal blind legislation in the first half of the 20th century in California was the result of Perry and his followers who eventually established the California Council of the Blind in 1934.
In 2018, LightHouse’s awarded the Newel Perry Award to Cathy, one of the few living people who worked directly with Dr. Perry and continued his work for another 70 years. Cathy came to California from Missouri in 1948, in part after reading the articles of Dr. Perry as a young girl. Upon arriving, Dr. Perry helped her get her first job and then the two began a lifelong collaboration to help blind people gain the support they needed to succeed in life.
Over the next three generations, Cathy helped hundreds of blind Californians believe in themselves, find jobs and live independently. Her longtime advocacy eventually helped her get elected president of the California Council of the Blind, its first female president in 63 years. Cathy served on state and national boards throughout her life, and she counted as her second proudest achievement the passage of SB105, establishing a specialized division for the blind within the Department of Rehabilitation. Her proudest accomplishment, she said, were her five sons, who she raised as a single parent while working for the IRS. Cathy continued to be moved by the promise she made to Dr. Perry at the end of his life, to work to find a way to unite all blind organizations for greatest effectiveness.