Stylish Spotlight: Richard Tennant

I came across this article and thought this guy was a pretty cool dude...
Not Deterred by Blindness
Published: Monday, December 21, 2009

By Tom Caprood
The Record

TROY — Though totally blind, Richard Tennant never let his disability stop him from enjoying life or traveling 200 miles to work each week for more than four decades.

Tennant, 67, recently celebrated his 45th anniversary as an employee of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, a Princeton, N.J.-based non-profit which produces audio textbooks for students with disabilities

A New Jersey native, he has lived in Lansingburgh since the mid-1960s with his wife, Mary, on the weekends and in New Brunswick, N.J., during the work week, commuting between the locations on his own via buses and trains.
“I love the ride,” said Tennant of his extended trips aboard Greyhound and Adirondack Trailways buses. “The long journey every week – to me, that’s recreation.”Tennant said that he has always enjoyed going out on the highway and that, while riding, he’ll often sleep or listen to audio books on route to keep occupied.
While some may think a blind man would have difficulty navigating the various terminals and schedules necessary for such trips, since the task is not simple even for those with use of all their senses, Tennant relies on the his natural global positioning system – his mind.
“I rely on memory when I travel. I look for stationary objects,” said Tennant, who described how he navigates the Port Authority bus terminal to find his ride back to New Brunswick during the week.“When I’m walking along the corridor, as soon as the floor tilts, that’s gate 415, and two more gates further is 417, where the suburban transit will go on to New Brunswick and Princeton.”
Tennant follows the same plan when walking to his home back in Troy, navigating with a mix of his mind and his feet until he finds his own door.“When I go to a new place I say, ‘If I’m going to come back here, let me look for something that will aid me in finding it again,’” he added.
Tennant has been legally blind his entire life but remembers seeing colors before his vision totally left him and can recall what they look like when people describe things to him.
The position he’s held since 1964 is that of a quality control checker for the audio books recorded by the non-profit organization and its some 7,000 volunteer readers nationwide. Specifically, he checks the voice and sound quality of recordings to ensure that there is no humming or distortion on the tracks.As for why he’s remained there for so long, Tennant said that the organization has always been a very flexible, easy-going place to work.
John Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, said that Tennant’s dedication is what personifies the mission of the non-profit.
Tennant is the organization’s longest-running employee and has been present as it progressed through the use of technology from the days of vinyl records to today’s digital Web-based downloads.“He’s a living example of what we are all about,” said Kelly, who has worked for 25 years alongside Tennant at the non-profit.
“When he joined us in 1964, we were a sleepy little do-good organization making audio books for blind individuals. Now we’ve grown in every regard, serving not just blind college kids but children and adults of all education levels through lifelong learning.”
Kelly noted how RFB&D has really grown from a recording service into an educational library over the years, adding more than 7,000 new titles to its database each year.
In contrast, Kelly noted that Braille literature, which blind students are required to know how to read, is not widely produced on a sufficient basis, with an average of 30 to 40 new books per year.“You want to read as much as you can and Braille literacy as a skill is really important,” said Kelly, noting that disabled students also have the options of audio books for their various subjects. “You need both.”
While Tennant spends his weeks away from his home, he is not alone and rarely without things to do with family members nearby in New Jersey an avid interest in the performing arts.
He regularly travels to New York City to hear the New York Philharmonic and often visits Carnegie Hall to enjoy the music of various orchestras. When home in the city, he is a frequent visitor to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Despite his 45 years of service, Tennant said he will eventually retire and spend the majority of his time in the city with his wife.“She’ll have to get used to having me around,” he said.
He also noted that, with the non-profit going digital for its recording, there is a lot less work to go around.
“If they cut the staff even further, I would leave with no animosity toward the company,” said Tennant. “It’s been a good experience for me in life.”
However, based on Kelly’s description of how his employees love having Tennant around, it is unlikely the organization will lay him off anytime soon.“Richie is an inspiration to our staff,” said Kelly. “He’s the ‘poster adult’ in many ways.”

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