In 2001, Brenda Watson was selected as one of ten New Mexico Women of the Year, and awarded a plaque by the State Governor, Gary Johnson. Below is her nomination document.

Brenda Watson nomination 2001

Nomination of

Brenda J. Watson

for Outstanding New Mexico Woman of the Year 2001

SUMMARY

Brenda J. Watson is President of the Santa Fe Host Lions Club, Worthy Matron of the Santa Fe chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, a talented musician, an active member of professional and advocacy organizations, and a respected member of her profession. Oh, and she's also blind, not that that's had any effect on her. The blind, it is now claimed, can handle any occupation except truck driver or librarian.

Did I mention that Ms. Watson is a Librarian? With a Master's degree in Library Science, she is the only Dewey cataloger at the New Mexico State Library, and recognized as one of the foremost authorities on her field in the state. She also serves on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Mountain Plains Library Association.

She also strives to promote recognition of what blind people can accomplish by her ardent activities with the National Federation of the Blind, for which she is currently filling dual roles as secretary of the La Luz chapter, covering Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Rio Arriba counties, and as State Treasurer for the New Mexico affiliate of the NFB.

Brenda J. Wason: Biographical Data

Brenda Jean Watson is legally blind, but that hasn't stopped her. Even though she can't recognize a person's face at greater than arm's length, she is this year serving as president of not just one, but two prominent service organizations. Even though she can't read a book without her nose literally touching the page, she maintains her position as a professional librarian at the New Mexico State Library in Santa Fe. Even though she needs blindingly bright light to see at all, she still serves those with even greater handicaps as secretary and treasurer of local and state advocacy organizations. Even though she can't drive, she travels to play piano or organ to provide music regularly for groups from Belen to Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Brenda Watson was born prematurely on January 10th, 1955, barely half the size of twin sister. At that era, pure oxygen was the best solution available for ensuring the survival of low birth-weight babies, even though it had a side effect known as Retinopathy of Prematurity, which results in gradual loss of vision.

Through school, Brenda was unable to ever see a blackboard, but she nevertheless persevered and developed a love of learning and reading. Through hard work and determination, she did well in school, graduating fourth in her high school class and being named a Hoosier Scholar in 1973. She attended Indiana University Southeast to obtain her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, and then went on to add a Masters degree in Library Science from Indiana University's Bloomington campus.

Following graduation, Brenda decided to explore her world and her options, and spent time at such varied possibilities as a novice nun serving on a reservation in Montana, to being a medical guinea-pig in San Diego, to working as a proof-reader at a graphic arts company; as well as more mundane occupations along the way as elementary school teacher, bookkeeper, nanny, waitress, library aide and associate professor.

At last, with the help of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, she found her niche seven years ago when they helped her gain an internship with the State Library. She rotated through all the departments, including lengthy stints in the Talking Book Library for the Blind and the Books By Mail program of the Rural Services department. Brenda is currently the only Dewey Cataloger in the Technical Services department, where she is considered one of the foremost experts in the state on the subject of Dewey classification. She is also under consideration as future head of the New Mexico Talking Book Library, and if she should be selected, may be the first visually impaired librarian to hold such a post in the U.S. Even outside her job, she is involved in her profession as member of the American Library Association, the Mountain Plains Library Association, the New Mexico Library Association, the Church & Synagog Librarians Association, and serves on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the MPLA.

But work is only part of her life. Her brother and late father were Master Masons, and both her parents were members of the Order of the Eastern Star. This has provided a heritage that she has carried on in her own life. An Honored Queen in the Masonic youth organization of Jobs Daughters when she was in high school, she has served as Bethel Guardian (adult advisor) for the organization while she was living Albuquerque. She has also served as Worthy Matron (equivalent to president) of one of the Albuquerque chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star, and is this year Worthy Matron of the Santa Fe chapter, founded in 1902.

A lover of music and an accomplished pianist and organist, Brenda has played both for church and theatrically. Within the past couple years, she has commuted from Santa Fe to serve as musician for the Las Vegas and Estancia Eastern Star chapters, and for the Albuquerque chapter of Amaranth, another Masonic auxilary organization to which she belongs. She is particularly attached to Amaranth because it raises funds for diabetes research, another disease which often robs people of their sight.

And Masonic organizations are not the limit of her civic life. To improve herself, she spent several years as a member of Toastmasters International to build her speaking and presentation skills, serving in several offices in her local club, all the way up to area governor. And to pay a debt of gratitude to Lions International which has funded much research in preserving sight for others, thus preventing recent generations from suffering the Retinopathy of Prematurity which afflicted her, she has for the past few years been an active member in the Santa Fe Host Lions Club, serving this year as President of the 74-year old club. Despite her visual impairment, she is not content to be just an administrator, but is also an active participant is such Lions activities as setting out U.S. flags around Santa Fe on national holidays, a chore that requires rising at 5 a.m. on her days off, going out into cold or snow, stretching her 5'7" frame to seat heavy wooden flagpoles into brackets often nearly 7' above the ground, and then returning again in the heat of the afternoon to retrieve them.

Finally, Brenda has also devoted a part of her life to advocacy for equality, both through passive support of human rights campaigns, and through taking an active role in the National Federation of the Blind, for which she is currently serving dual roles as secretary of the La Luz chapter, covering Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Rio Arriba counties, and as State Treasurer for the New Mexico affiliate of the NFB.

In conclusion, Brenda is a stellar individual, who has overcome exceptional hardships and still achieved and accomplished equally stellar heights. Brenda Watson is more than deserving of the honor of Outstanding Woman of the Year.

[Brenda was allowed to read this bio to verify the information (not all of which she approved of), but it was composed by Brenda's nominator and significant other, Owen Laurion, to whom she was married for 10 of the last 13 years.]

References:

Most of Brenda Watson's accomplishments are not easily documented on paper but rather in the hearts of people she's worked with. Herewith is a partial list of those who will vouch for and endorse her:

Ben Wakeshige
NM State Librarian
1209 Camino Carlos Rey
Santa Fe, NM 87505-9860
ph. 476-9762

Patricia Hewitt
Technical Services, NMSL
1209 Camino Carlos Rey
Santa Fe, NM 87505-9860
ph.476-9730

Art Schreiber
President, NM NFB
1331 Park Ave. SW, #1504
Albuquerque, NM 87102
arturo70@aol.com
home ph. 243-6165

Kay Boyd
President, La Luz NFB
719 Kris Ct.
Los Alamos, NM 87544
home ph. 672-1540

Faye Green
Past Matron, Santa Fe OES
520 Sandia St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Home ph. 983-6218

Clara Rogers
Worthy Matron, Ransford (Las Vegas) #2 OES
HC68, Box 3AA
Sapello, NM 87745

Cleo Joyner
Past Matron Albuquerque #67 OES
1139 Lester Dr. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87112
home ph. 298-8261

Anna Cates
Royal Matron, Order of the Amaranth, La Mesa Court
1355 Meadowlark Ln. SE, #218
Rio Rancho, NM 87174-5089
Home ph.891-1028

Barbara Wheeler
Secretary, Order of the Amaranth, La Mesa Court
4320 Washington NE, #47
Albuquerque, NM 87109-1227
bkwheeler@prodigy.net
ph. 883-5730

Vic Lyon
Past District Gov., Lions Clubs International
45 Camino Sudeste
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Vtlpe@aol.com
989-8474