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Johns Hopkins, Minnesota Researchers Win Prestigious Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research

  • Press Release
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Award Honors Pioneers in Low-Vision Research

Denver, CO, May 5, 2015 - Gordon Legge of the University of Minnesota and Robert Massof of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute will today receive the prestigious 2015 Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research. The award is jointly presented by the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education and BrightFocus Foundation.

Legge is being recognized for his seminal contributions to understanding vision and reading, especially the consequences of low vision. Massof is known for multiple contributions to low-vision rehabilitation research, notably on outcomes assessment in low vision.

“The Laureates and their works are mankind’s best response to Helen Keller’s plea, “Help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness,” said Robert Morris, MD, President of the Helen Keller Foundation.

“Each of these Helen Keller Prize Laureates has made low-vision research and rehabilitation a life’s work, and we’re privileged to celebrate their achievements,” says BrightFocus President and CEO Stacy Haller.

Helen Keller’s great-grand-niece, Keller Johnson-Thompson, will tonight award the Prize at a Denver ceremony. The event coincides with the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

The Work of Laureate Legge

Gordon Legge, PhD is the Director of the Minnesota Laboratory for Low Vision Research and the McKnight University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. He is widely recognized for his groundbreaking application of vision science to the understanding and improvement of everyday problems in reading and mobility, as encountered by people with low vision. One of his primary accomplishments has been to explain the role of vision in reading, including why and how different eye diseases result in serious reading problems. Legge, who has low vision himself, said he hopes to be “a role model for what is possible in science and daily life,” noting that Helen Keller was a role model for all people with disabilities.

The Work of Laureate Massof

Robert W. Massof, PhD is Professor of Ophthalmology and of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Medicine, and director of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at the JHU Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.  Massof helped develop the first head-mounted system to aid the visually impaired. He also developed the Acuity Inventory, an adaptive visual functioning rating scale that has been used in clinical studies throughout the world.  Massof, who has received other awards for his vision work with Lions Clubs, finds a special significance in receiving the Helen Keller Prize.  He noted that in 1925, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness.”

About the Helen Keller Prize

A distinguished panel of biomedical scientists and research physicians annually selects one or more Helen Keller Laureates, out of a research community of 20,000 scientists and clinicians worldwide who work to save the precious gift of sight for current and future generations. The Prize was established in 1994 by the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, which was founded in 1988 by Helen Keller’s family and scientists dedicated to fighting blindness. The Prize is now presented in conjunction with BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports research and education on diseases of mind and sight.

BrightFocus Foundation is a nonprofit organization supporting research and public education to help eradicate brain and eye diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma. For more information, call 1-800-437-2423.


BrightFocus Foundation
Alice L. Kirkman 

Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education
Laura Beckwith

Contact for Gordon Legge, PhD
Kelly O’Brien
University of Minnesota

Contact for Robert W. Massof, PhD
Audrey Huang
Johns Hopkins Medicine