2007 Professional Achievement Award
Jeffrey S. Bohrman ’67
Jeff Bohrman ’67 is a dual success, having become an accomplished scientist and an internationally recognized spokesperson and advocate for the deaf-blind.
A biology major at Dickinson, Bohrman earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in pharmacology. Before losing his sight in 1990, he was a well-respected research toxicologist for the federal government’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati, developing a method to test workplace chemicals that cause skin cancer.
Despite being born deaf, he excelled at the rigorous Germantown Academy near Philadelphia before coming to Dickinson in the 1960s, where he was the only deaf student. There were no accommodations made for his deafness, and Bohrman sat in the front of the class and lip-read as his professors spoke. To combat the feeling of social isolation—common among deaf students—he joined Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity.
Although his parents knew from the time he was 10 that he had Usher syndrome and would gradually go blind, they never told him. He was married and pursuing his Ph.D. at age 29 when he finally found out.
Robbed of his sight 17 years ago, Bohrman, then 45, was forced to leave his job as a research scientist and find a new professional calling. He worked to learn computer skills, becoming the first deaf-blind person in Ohio to get connected to the computer.
Despite still feeling attracted to working as a scientist, Bohrman moved to the capital of Ohio 14 years ago, landed a job as director of the Ohio Deaf-Blind Outreach Program at the Columbus Speech & Hearing Center and embarked on a new chapter of his life—as a nationally recognized advocate for the deaf-blind.
Bohrman directs the day-to-day work of the Outreach Program, which locates and serves deaf-blind adults, helping them to communicate and be as independent as possible, especially in their vocational lives.
“When I was forced to go on disability due to my blindness after many years as a research toxicologist, I knew that I wasn’t ready to sit in a ‘rocking chair.’ Through the support of my family and friends and keeping a positive attitude, I have worked hard to become an effective advocate for the deaf-blind community worldwide,” he says.
Twice in recent years he has traveled to Washington, D.C., to brief members of Congress on rehabilitation services and the need for funding. His work has succeeded in winning budget increases for the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults.
He also has served as president, vice president and treasurer of the American Association of the Deaf-Blind and as the North America regional representative for the World Federation of the Deaf-Blind. In 2005, he was inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Persons with Disabilities and this spring received the Alice Cogswell Award from the Gallaudet University Alumni Association in Washington, D.C., for his valuable service on behalf of deaf people.
The inspirational advice Bohrman offers to the deaf-blind is applicable to everyone. “I learned early on to be independent because independence is the key to success,” he says. “Nothing is impossible—you can overcome any barriers to reaching your dreams and goals.”
Bohrman lives in Columbus with his wife Evalyn and his two children, Rebecca and David.
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