While walking his dog the day after his wife Naomi Sussman, MS ‘12
, had passed away, among the many things going through the mind of a devastated Marc Meketon was what would be the best way to celebrate her life.
Sussman loved Salus University and earned her master’s in Low Vision Rehabilitation (LVR)
in 2012 and then followed that up with her Orientation and Mobility (O&M)
And, that’s how the idea of the Naomi Sussman Scholarship was established.
“This memorializes her, which I thought was a very powerful thing,” said Meketon. “Our family (which includes daughter Rachel and son Samuel) really hope it does assist students in low vision and maybe O&M to get through (the program) and succeed.”
Sussman fought low vision herself for much of her life, according to Meketon. The two met in 1980 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and even then, her eyesight wasn’t fantastic.
"Her glasses resembled binoculars more than anything else,” said Meketon.
When the couple moved to Ambler, Pennsylvania, in 1994, Sussman met a woman with low vision issues at their synagogue. During the discussion, the woman mentioned she was involved with the Montgomery County Association for the Blind (MCAB). That interested Sussman, and in 1996, she began volunteering at MCAB.
Then in 2003, she was diagnosed with glaucoma, which led her to not only research the disease but become involved with the Glaucoma International Network, a group for which she would eventually become president.
The connection with MCAB also led to another chance meeting with a woman who praised the work of the O&M students from Salus. So, Sussman enrolled at the University to learn LVR and eventually O&M. Her time at Salus was memorable to those with whom she worked.
“She would burst into my office and sit down and start talking. And, what she liked to talk about was her children,” said Fabiana Perla, EdD, MS ‘93, COMS ‘94, CLVR
, chair of the Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and associate professor in the University’s College of Health Sciences, Education and Rehabilitation who served as a professor and internship supervisor for Sussman while she was a student. “I think she was happy in school, she liked learning. She was a good student and was persistent, even in the face of challenges. She would soak up feedback and never get down or defeated. She did not shy away from putting whatever effort and amount of work she needed to do.”
And, when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer while still pursuing her education at Salus, Sussman persisted. By the time her education was completed and it was time for her to leave the University and secure a job in the profession, her health took a turn for the worse. She volunteered to help with some Salus programs, and Dr. Perla gave her a project that she could do from home. But the illness was relentless.
Sussman passed away May 26, 2018, of cancer.
The Meketon/Sussman family decided that rather than having just a one-time scholarship award, an annual $1,000 scholarship awarded to a Salus student would be even better.
It’s not the only legacy Sussman will leave the University. Before her death, she went through her things and put together three boxes of books and materials from her programs and donated them to Salus. Everything from the books she used to the low vision devices she had collected.
“We had a student in the low vision rehabilitation program from Singapore and she couldn’t possibly travel to the U.S. with all the books required for the program,” said Dr. Perla. “She was going to be here for a year, and we told her she could use Naomi’s books while she was here. So Naomi’s books were put into use immediately. I have given some of her books away and I have loaned others. Naomi had the forethought that somebody might need these books. The three boxes of her stuff are being put to good use.”