Janet LaBreck, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), recently became the first legally blind individual to receive an honorary degree from The New England College of Optometry.
LaBreck also served as the commencement speaker at the college’s 114th graduation exercises, held Sunday, June 1. Some 115 students received their doctor of optometry degrees at the ceremony, which took place at the John Hancock Auditorium in the Back Bay Events Center.
LaBreck was appointed commissioner of the MCB last July by Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. Prior to her appointment, she had worked at the MCB for 22 years, serving since 2001 as the commission’s regional director for central Massachusetts. In that capacity, she executed daily agency operations for the region and was instrumental in promoting partnerships with the business, higher education and nonprofit communities.
LaBreck successfully facilitated the development and implementation of a national employment network for the blind in collaboration with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, and She has also earned national recognition for her work on vocational rehabilitation issues.
“Ms. LaBreck … offers the kind of innovative leadership that will enable the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind to expand rehabilitation services and educational, employment and social opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Bigby in announcing LaBreck’s appointment.
LaBreck has also been an adjunct professor at Assumption College in Worcester. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a master’s degree in education from Springfield College.
The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind was created in 1906 to provide “the highest quality rehabilitation and social services leading to independence and economic self-sufficiency” for blind and visually impaired individuals. Helen Keller was one of the original commissioners.