Mind’s Eye

Originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Baltimore magazine

On Valentine’s Day 1961, his mother sat near the foot of his hospital bed and the light was almost gone. “Son,” the doctor had told him a day earlier, “you’re going to be blind tomorrow.”

Sandy Greenberg was just 20 when he first heard those gut-punching words in a Detroit exam room, but they remain seared in his mind, just like the lasting image of his wife of 55 years, Sue. Or the memory of the patch of illuminated New York City grass that one of his college roommates and lifelong friends, Art Garfunkel (yes, him), pointed to freshman year and said “Look at what the light does to the color” during a walk on the corner of Amsterdam and 118th streets on Columbia University’s Upper West Side campus.

Everything else is a picture he has to paint in his imagination, like his three children and four grandchildren. Or his sense of the beloved Rembrandt that hangs in his Washington D.C. apartment. And, more recently, the presumed shocked expressions of board members and faculty at Johns Hopkins’ world-renowned Wilmer Eye Institute, when, six years ago, an impeccably dressed blind man who had grown up poor walked up to a note-less podium and issued an astonishing challenge. He eventually announced it publicly: The Sanford and Susan Greenberg Prize, $2 million in gold to whomever does the most to end blindness by the year 2020. This was his moonshot.

“This is our destiny,” Greenberg said. “End it, end it, end it.”

His story is a cruel irony and a fascinating paradox rolled into a remarkable life, powerful and inspiring enough to rally a group of the world’s top doctors and scientists, and undeniably audacious enough to garner the world’s attention.

Yes, Dr. Sanford Greenberg, chairman of the board of governors of one of the best eye institutes on the planet, is blind.

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More Than Meets the Buckeye

Originally appeared in March 2017 issue of US Lacrosse magazine

Eric Fannell’s reputation — intimidating, aloof, with the lore of an unseen Canadian talent — preceded him. And in some ways, people were right about him. The kid dressed in all black and wore his hat low, covering a buzz cut. He kept answers about himself to one word, avoided eye contact.

Fannell, as Ohio State men’s lacrosse captain Tyler Pfister put it, was “rough around the edges.” That was Pfister’s first impression, at least, when he met his new teammate and helped him move into a one-bedroom apartment in August of 2015.

Coach Nick Myers tabbed Pfister, an Ohio native, to help with Fannell’s transition from St. Catharines, Ontario — by way of tiny Division III Adrian College in Michigan — to Columbus. Gradually, over the course of lunches three to four times a week, usually at Asian restaurants like Mark Pi’s on High Street, Fannell’s tough outer layers peeled away like flaky crust falling off an egg roll.

Fannell’s father, Steve, a former Team Canada member and National Lacrosse League pro, as many people in the tight-knit, blue-collar St. Catharines lacrosse community already knew, was and is a drug addict, and no longer in Eric’s life. They haven’t spoken in seven years. And, yes, while some teammates probably still don’t know, the younger Fannell battled addiction problems himself. He drank, he says, two to three times a week at age 14. It was enough that his grandfather, Lincoln, took him to Alcoholics Anonymous when Eric was in high school.

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