Miriam Ascarelli, a lecturer in the NJIT Department of Humanities, has published Independent Vision: Dorothy Harrison Eustis and the Story of the Seeing Eye (Purdue Univ. Press), a short biography of Dorothy Harrison Eustis, founder of The Seeing Eye, Inc., the oldest existing dog guide-school in the world, located in Morristown.
The author, a former reporter, was inspired to write the book by a story she covered many years ago while reporting for The Jersey Journal. The story was about a young man from Union City who received a Seeing Eye dog. At the time Ascarelli didn't think about the organization’s roots but later realized the story had more substance.
Drawing on correspondence, private papers and newspaper accounts of the day, the book focuses on the arc of Eustis’s life from her upper-class childhood in Victorian Philadelphia to the confluence of events that led to the creation of The Seeing Eye in 1929 to her death in 1946 at the age of 60. It includes her years as a young mother in the upstate New York boomtown of Hoosick Falls, her widowhood, and her failed second marriage to a man 13 years her junior. The author looks into the drive behind a woman, who though a very private person who shunned media coverage, still courted it actively on the organization’s behalf.
Since The Seeing Eye was founded, it has trained thousands of people who are visually impaired to use guide dogs. The program’s success has spawned dog guide-schools across the country and around the world; the concept has been further expanded to include service dogs for people with other kinds of disabilities.