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Review from Constance Lacy
University of North Texas
The Blind Visionary uplifts the heart. This book provides information, insight, and directives that can assist the service provider and the student majoring in the fields of human services, nonprofit management, and leadership in realizing the importance of facing life’s challenges with confidence and determination. The authors discuss the impact of life experiences and challenges on the shaping of one’s view of self and on the defining of one’s professional career choices. In a poignant prime example, Virginia Jacko takes the reader on a journey to success, disappointment, and restored hope, through her candid description of becoming the CEO of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. Presented as a dialogue, the authors share personal events and provide examples of how perseverance, determination, and commitment to excellence serve as the foundation of Virginia Jacko’s dynamic success as a leader in the nonprofit sector despite the loss of her eyesight.
As an administrator in higher education, my experiences have often been mentally and emotionally challenging. Yet, I cannot imagine maintaining a successful career and keeping such a huge life-altering secret. Virginia Jacko, however, appears to have maintained confidence and self-assurance while keeping her secret, the visual impairment which would lead to blindness. She posits that her commitment to take action, rather than place blame or feel sorry for herself, helped her maintain her momentum and move forward. A careful reading of each chapter reveals the principles that she put in place to overcome her physical obstacles and emerge as the Chief Executive Officer of a major nonprofit organization, The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. The manner in which she faced her challenges head-on is inspiring.
This book covers a wide range of important concepts, principles, and themes. Central to the book, the authors discuss the importance of having courage and taking action. The themes of hope, confidence in one’s purpose, and service (to empower individuals to success) resonate throughout the book and take on an even more significant meaning when Virginia uses her drive and energy to help others realize their own potential.
Part 1 provides an overview of Virginia’s years at Purdue University. The authors discuss her ascent up the career ladder, describing Virginia’s experiences as a financial executive at Purdue University. In this section, she addresses how she worked hard to conceal the onset of retinitis pigmentosa and to minimize its effects on her job performance. The authors emphasize the importance of finding meaning, purpose, and mission in one’s life. Accordingly, finding meaning may become the driving force in the face of overwhelming odds.
Part 2 recounts Virginia’s introduction to the Miami Lighthouse for The Blind. The authors summarize the important issues that emerged from Virginia’s transition from an influential position, her professional status at Purdue University, to becoming a client, student, volunteer, and, ultimately, president and CEO of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. She often emphasizes the importance of the support of others. The support of her husband, her children, and the lighthouse for the blind community proved most significant.
In Part 3, discussions on four significant life lessons integrate practical wisdom with candid dialogue about personal growth and the rewards that result from embracing change at every level. The authors discuss the process behind Virginia’s outlook and the ensuing approach to her circumstances that every leader should consider. On the basis of Virginia’s personal journey, the authors provide guiding points that are particularly helpful during times of struggle and challenge.
Overall, this book was a joy to read. As Virginia Jacko shares how she came to the decision to walk away from her successful career as an administrator in higher education, she personifies strength and highlights the role of the human spirit in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Clearly, this book is one person’s testimonial of resilience and determination against the odds. Prior to reading The Blind Visionary, I was not familiar with Virginia Jacko or the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind. I am pleased to have had this opportunity to experience her story. She is a purpose-driven individual who has accomplished ambitious endeavors. I believe that her success is encouraging on many levels.
The teachings gleaned from this book provide explicit information on the decision-making processes germane to nonprofit management and leadership in the social service industry. It offers a series of learning points intended to ensure that students see the relevance of their previous learning to the material presented. In fact, the book is written for individuals who aspire to affect change on a personal, social, and global level. This is an excellent ancillary text for students preparing for careers in the human services industry and the nonprofit sector. Designed to be easily integrated into the classroom, the material from this book will prove useful in small group discussions and in the simulation of practice experiences intended to help students gain an appreciation for a population with whom they may be unfamiliar. After reading The Blind Visio-nary, students should be better able to articulate an understanding of the role of effective board development in social service agencies, cultivating synergistic relationships among major stake-holders, and ensuring successful fundraising. Readers of The Blind Visionary will gain an under-standing of the importance of professional skills, self-discipline, self-determination, and self-confidence when faced with adversity.
(Originally appeared in the Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership 2011, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 91-92)