Ray McAllister wins prestigious award

News January 4, 2017

As member of the Semitic Scholars, a group of three blind academics who created a Braille code for ancient biblical languages,

Andrews University alumnus Ray McAllister became the first Adventist to win the prestigious Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award at the ninth annual awards event during the 2016 convention in early July. The award comes from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and includes the highest possible cash prize totaling $20,000. In addition to being a fully licensed massage therapist, McAllister is an adjunct teacher for the School of Distance Education & International Partnerships.

The Jacob Bolotin Award is a cash award program to recognize individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.

This accomplishment is known in many circles as the Nobel Peace Prize of Blindness. McAllister, along with Sarah Blake LaRose, professional Braille transcriber, professor of Hebrew and fellow Andrews alumna and Matthew Yeater, current president of the NFB in Michiana, comprise the Semitic Scholars.

The Semitic Scholars are a group of three blind academics who created a Braille code for ancient biblical languages so that source documents of religious texts can be studied independently by blind students in their original context – a task that was previously impossible.

In 2010, after becoming the first totally blind person to earn a PhD in Hebrew Bible, which he earned from Andrews University, McAllister began this project by utilizing his resources which included computer-code-style files which used letters, numbers and punctuation to represent Greek and Hebrew symbols.

McAllister developed coding for the symbols not already established in Braille. Hebrew has accents which help one know when to pause while reading and which can be used to inform readers how to chant or sing the text, but these symbols were not previously charted in Braille.

Fall 2016 – 13

FOCUS: The Andrews University Magazine, FALL 2016, Vol. 52, No. 4

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