by Michael E. Garrett
Herein is the profile of a man who has made a difference to those he touched throughout his life. Student athlete, leader, family man, community activist, author, professor at a major university; these are just a few of the attributes of Dr. Gene I. Brooks, Ph.D.
Dr. Brooks is a graduate of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), where he was a model student and medal-winning athlete. He began his career as a residential supervisor for the Deaf/Blind Program at TSBVI from 1973 to 1981. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and his master’s degree from Texas A&M Kingsville, he began to build on his career opportunities.
From 1985 onward, Dr. Brooks served in a number of capacities related to the rehabilitation of individuals who are blind or deaf/blind. He was a guest lecturer, researcher, program trainer and co-author of articles related to his doctoral dissertation, which was entitled “Correlates of Substance Abuse Among People with Blindness/Visual Impairment.” He received his Ph.D. in Special Education, Rehabilitation Counselor Education from the University of Texas-Austin, where he ultimately became a full-time lecturer.
In addition to his stellar career, Dr. Brooks has given much time to community service. He served on the boards of both the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities and Disability Rights Texas; served as both chairman and secretary of the Texas Commission for the Blind Regional Advisory Committee; and served 12 years on the governing board of TSBVI. In the midst of all of these things, he found time to be married and raise three children.
Though retired, to this day, Dr. Brooks remains active in the community, whether in his local ACB chapter or performing duties for the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities. But most notable is that eight years ago, Dr. Brooks was a heart transplant recipient. However, before a compatible heart donor could be found, Dr. Brooks needed something to serve as a bridge. He was given a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). What makes this incredible is that until Dr. Brooks, no other blind person had used such a device. With the help of Sue O’Brien from TSBVI, a first-of-its-kind braille system was developed to assure that he could monitor the pump. As far as can be determined, he was the first person who is blind to use such a device in the U.S.
Dr. Gene I. Brooks: educator, communicator, facilitator; a man who has made a difference to the people whose lives he’s touched!