Sanford Greenberg, Art Garfunkel’s college roommate, writes a gem

If I suggested that you read a new book about a young man who makes good — would that be enough to get you to open it?
I doubt it. But here’s some more convincing information that should do the trick: The man is Sanford D. Greenberg, who grew up in a poor area of Buffalo to become both well-known, and extremely wealthy, through a number of businesses in fields varying from real estate to technology. And he’s done it all without sight.
Greenberg became blind while he was in college at Columbia, the end result of botched surgery some years before. But he not only adjusted to blindness, he exceeded all reasonable expectations, going on to academic successes: an MBA from the same school, and both master’s and Ph.D. degrees in political science from Harvard. These led to service as a White House Fellow during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency.
Education was always major for Greenberg’s traditional Jewish housewife mother and his stepfather, a junk dealer; his birth father had escaped the Nazis but died in America when his son was only 5. A later major influence on Greenberg, someone always a staunch believer in how much he could accomplish, was his first university roommate: Art Garfunkel. The well-chosen title for this book is “Hello Darkness, My Old Friend,” a doubly fitting tribute to the musician who has remained the author’s best friend for life.
That connection should be good for the book. It can’t hurt, either, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote its Foreward, and the Final Word is that of novelist Margaret Atwood. But all the rest is the work of the author himself, nothing “as told to” anyone else. And it is a tribute to his real work: rising far above anyone’s expectations but his own to accomplish much — not just for himself, but for the cause that is closest to him: conquering blindness.
A story about him in Baltimore Magazine describes a day some years ago when board members and faculty of the Wilmer Eye Institute in that city saw “an impeccably dressed blind man who had grown up poor walk up to a podium and issue an astonishing challenge: The Sanford and Susan Greenberg Prize: $2 million for the person who can end blindness. That amount will be paid in gold because that is the last color that Greenberg remembers: “a sunset stroll on the shores of Lake Erie with Sue,” the love of his teenage years who later became his wife and the mother of his children.
The book’s title does more than pay tribute to Greenberg’s old friend. There’s a story behind it that’s part of the bigger one: While living at Oxford as a poor student, he still managed to give $400 to Garfunkel — enough for him to enter into partnership with Paul Simon. The immediate result was the album called “The Sound of Silence.”
Garfunkel has many times returned that favor. He has said of Greenberg: “I tried to help him across those deeply troubled waters. He knows all too well how blind people may dream in vivid color, but then awake to the bitter reality of darkness. His vow has been to find a way to end blindness for everyone after him who might suffer the same blow.” And finally, the author assesses the situation of all blind people from his own perspective: “The eye is just an extension of the brain,” he says. “To end blindness will ultimately be a major assist to regenerating the entire human nervous system.” Greenberg’s ultimate belief is that blindness research may lead to cures for such other diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries as well.
I hope by now I’ve convinced you that this is a fine book to read — maybe especially now when we’re all being robbed, not by blindness, but by viral circumstance, to see much less of what we’d like to see.

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