Fall 2013

Jeanne Spira found a future in Braille

Jeanne Spira found a future in Braille
Evelyn Lamb
Jeanne Spira wears the Stole of Gratitude given to her by Michael Forzano '13 at his graduation.

As a senior at Binghamton, Jeanne Spira ’73 thought she’d pursue graduate study in literature. For a change of pace, she took a class in Braille and unexpectedly found a career. This year, one of her students joined her in the ranks of Binghamton alumni.

For about 40 years, Spira has taught the blind and visually impaired. She lived and worked in Rhode Island before settling in Yonkers, N.Y., where she met Michael Forzano ’13 as a sixth-grader. He is congenitally blind and has a progressive hearing disorder. After knowing him only a short time, Spira saw Forzano’s potential.

“He would grasp everything,” she says. “Everything was a breeze for Michael. He was always at the top of his class.”

When it was time to think about college, Spira encouraged him to consider Binghamton, thinking he would be among equally bright students who would inspire and challenge him. Forzano was accepted and enrolled in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“I’ve always been really good with computers,” Forzano says. “I was considering becoming a lawyer, but thought I would give computer science a try and found that I really liked it.”

Amazon also thought he was good with computers. As an intern there in 2012, he wrote software that sends reminders to students about returning rented textbooks. In August, he started a full-time job at the company’s Seattle headquarters as a computer software engineer.

Spira says it’s hard to describe how proud she felt attending Forzano’s Commencement at Binghamton, at which he placed his Stole of Gratitude around her, recognizing her contributions to his success. 

“It increased our connection, as we are both alumni,” she says. “We’ve had some special times, walking around campus together, sharing things that you normally don’t have time to. Had Michael gone somewhere else, our relationship would have continued and he would’ve been successful, but this just deepens the relationship.”