Transcription of Presentation of Degree to George Kerscher

May 12, 2007

Portion of University of Montana Graduation ceremony relating to George Kerscher

President Dr Dennison at the podium
Associate Provost Walker-Andrews asks Mr. George Kerscher to please rise. The President continues:

A pioneer and innovator in the field of digital technology, George Kerscher’s work has enriched the lives of individuals with visual and physical challenges and learning disabilities. As the key intellectual and creative resource to the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic Organization, Kerscher’s role in the development of digital talking textbooks and accessible technology has transformed the lives of blind or otherwise print disabled students. In addition to his technical contributions, Kerscher led the process of identifying and implementing specific standards to make digital audio text inclusive and universally accessible, establishing him as perhaps the foremost authority on accessibility standards in the world. His understanding and knowledge of the social implications as well as the emerging scientific trends in technology and information presentation for the blind, combined with his energy, enthusiasm, and boldness, inspire and garner respect around the globe. An illustrious career to date has yielded a lengthy list of awards and honors including his selection by U.S. News and World Report as the Innovator of the Year, the 1999 Montana Association for the Blind Member of the Year, the 2001 Dayton Forman Award, and his elections as the Secretary General of the Digital Audio Information Systems Consortium and Chairperson of the Open EBook Forum. For his distinguished service and the example he provides to young people, The University of Montana takes enormous pride in recognizing George Kerscher with the highest academic honor the University can confer. Therefore, with the authority vested in me by the Board of Regents of the Montana University System, I hereby confer upon you, George Kerscher, the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities appertaining thereto. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Dr. George Kerscher.

The Registrar hands the hood to Regent O’Loughlin and the diploma to President Dennison.
Regent O’Loughlin places the hood on the candidate and adjusts the front while Dean Fetz and Associate Provost Walker-Andrews adjust the back.
The President presents the diploma to the candidate and congratulates him.
The President, the Associate Provost Walker-Andrews, the Dean, Regent O’Loughlin and the Registrar return to their chairs before Mr. Kerscher makes comments.

George Kerscher's Remarks

It is said that when God closes a door he always opens a window. I want to assure you that he opens many windows for all of us. In 1985 I left my job teaching in Stevensville, Montana because of a degenerative retinal disease. I came to The University of Montana to study computer science. After about a year of studies I got my first talking computer. Primitive though it was, it open a window to the world of information for me. However, there were no books available I could use at that time, at that level of study. They just didn’t exist. I wrote some letters to publishers asking them for the data that drove their printers and they sent them to me… a couple of them. And I wrote software to convert that data to the first digital book; that was 1987. I was sitting in front of my talking computer with my digital book, the first one ever, and said, "Oh my God this is absolutely incredible!" The University helped me to nurture that idea and incubate the formation of the nonprofit company called, “Computerized Books for the Blind,” and in a very short time, the news spread across the world about this technology. Today it has been embraced throughout the world and students who are blind, low vision, dyslexic, learning disabled, or people who can't turn the pages because of an orthopedic disability use these digital books at university systems throughout the world. The company merged with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) in 1ß this is a heading. We have paragraphs that are blocked or indented, list items have bullets in front of it, but the semantic information is not represented in the analog context. The digital publishing arena needs to start; publishing needs to change. The semantic information needs to be preserved in digital content. Now, you all are the agents of change for the future, and I want you to join with me in helping to create a better way to publish and a better way to read. The Daisy Consortium that I work for is working on those standards and the technology and it will evolve over time, but the print book has a mighty hold on our society. For the past 500 years since the Gutenberg printing press was invented, we've optimized printing and publishing, but it is not accessible for all the people in our society. And indeed we live in the information age and access to information at this point is a fundamental human right. The publishing industry must change. And it will be better for everybody because we will be able to use information when we want it, where we want it, and how we want it. We will be able to have content on our PDA, cell phone, our iPods. It will be able to be read to us, refreshable braille screens for braille readers can be used, and we can have it in a variety of different ways. We can still print it too. But the publishing industry must change and I invite you to look at this technology as it evolves in the future and join Daisy and RFB&D to move this into the mainstream of publishing. I want to thank Alden Wright, Chair of the Computer Science Department, all of the members of the Computer Science Department past and present, and all of the faculty who helped me in my education. I got a terrific foundation in computer science here. I would like to thank Kathy Kahl, Laurie Sherve, and Tom McCartney who work with me here in Missoula. And most of all I would like to thank my wife of 35 years who stood by my side through many good times. And I want to thank the University and Board of Regents for this incredible honor that has been bestowed upon me today. Thank you very much.

George Kerscher and guide dog Nesbit returns to his seat.