Story at a glance
- Sandy Greenberg went blind at age 19 in 1961.
- At the time, he swore an oath that no one else should go blind.
- Now, he's funding a $3 million prize for thirteen members of the scientific and medical communities who "have led exemplary and undeniable advances in the fight to end blindness."
There's a story Sanford Greenberg likes to tell about the time his friend and classmate Arthur Garfunkel abandoned him in Grand Central Terminal. Sandy, as his friends know him, had gone blind while at school and struggled to find his way back home. But he did, only to learn that Garfunkel had been shadowing him all along.
"I realized something profound — my friends and family had become angels who would be with me and never leave. I was strong because of the strength we gave each other," said Greenberg in his book, "Hello Darkness, My Old Friend."
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A lifelong friend of one half of the legendary duo Simon & Garfunkel, Greenberg went on to make many more, including the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the forward to his book.
"While I was still in a hospital bed in Detroit, newly blinded, I swore an outrageous oath that has been with me ever since: That no one else should have to go blind. It was a promise I made not just to myself but to God—and one that has remained my personal mission ever since," said Greenberg, who went blind at age 19 in 1961.
Now, he's funding a $3 million prize for 13 members of the scientific and medical communities who "have led exemplary and undeniable advances in the fight to end blindness."
"I've known Sandy a long time: I knew him before he lost his sight; I knew him when he was plunged into darkness, when he was forced to navigate an unfamiliar world," said Garfunkel during a virtual awards ceremony on Dec. 14. "And I've known him in the decades since, as he's built a career filled with extraordinary achievements and a life defined by love and success."
This year, medical professionals Gustavo Aguirre, Jean Bennett Albert Maguire and William Hauswirth worked with a team to prevent and reverse a form of hereditary blindness, were awarded an outstanding achievement honor, along with G. N. Rao and Ravindran Ravilla. James Fujimoto, Zhigang He, David Huang, Simon John, Botond Roska, Eric Swanson and Masayo Takahashi won an award for visionary honor.
The ceremony also paid tribute to the late Justice Ginsburg, who appeared in a video recorded in June. "I was captivated by his bright mind, ready wit and indomitable spirit. I raise my glass to Sandy Greenberg, who chose life in all its vibrancy," she said.
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