NRTC current, former directors at MSU receive national honors for work in blindness field

Contact: Emile Creel and Camille Carskadon

Elton Moore (Photo by Megan Bean)Michele McDonnall (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss –Two Mississippi State University leaders are being recognized with prestigious honors from the American Foundation for the Blind for their impactful work in the blindness and low vision field.

Elton Moore, retired MSU College of Education associate dean and professor who also is a former director of the MSU-based National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision and Michele McDonnall, current NRTC director and MSU research professor, accepted two of the organization’s highest awards during its recent leadership conference in Arlington, Virginia.

Moore said receiving the Migel Medal—the highest honor in the blindness field—is among the most significant achievements of his career, along with his 2002 selection as a Giles Distinguished Professor at MSU.

“To receive the Migel Medal is the quintessential lifetime achievement award in the blindness field, and to be a part of a nationally renowned group that includes Helen Keller is truly humbling,” Moore said.

A preeminent leader in the blindness field over the last quarter century, Moore’s leadership of MSU's then Rehabilitation Research and Training Center included oversight of considerable research related to the employment of people with vision loss. This research was applied by private and governmental organizations to serve those with blindness and visual impairments throughout the United States. Moore frequently has lectured and contributed to the field’s body of knowledge through his editing and authoring of dozens of articles and books. He is well known for his advocacy skills, analytical capabilities, leadership, and grant-writing expertise.

“I am extremely excited that Elton has received this significant recognition. Clearly, he has been a major player in the field of low vision and blindness for many years and has had a major impact on the lives of numerous individuals. This award is an outstanding way for Elton to cap his career,” said dean of MSU’s College of Education Richard Blackbourn.

Established in 1937 by the late M.C. Migel, AFB’s first chairman, the Migel Medal honors professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. The Migel Medal Committee typically selects two honorees each year whose life work affects services to people with vision loss on a national level.

Michele McDonnall said AFB’s Corinne Kirchner Research Award is a reflection of her collaborative teamwork with MSU colleagues and others working in the field.

“I am sincerely honored to receive this AFB award. Also, my research accomplishments would not be possible without the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research’s support of our research and center staff who I have collaborated with on this research,” she said. “This is an award that I truly share with the NRTC and all of its staff.”

The Corinne Kirchner Research Award honors individuals whose leadership and dedication illuminate the most pressing needs of people with vision loss through timely, innovative and authoritative research. It is named in honor of a longtime AFB staff member whose research into demographics, education and employment research in the blindness field laid the foundation for much of the continuing research today.

McDonnall, who has been NRTC director for eight years, serves as the principal investigator of multiple projects for the 2015-2020 Rehabilitation Research and Training Center grant on Employment for Individuals with Blindness or Other Visual Impairments from NIDILRR. She has published extensively over the last 15 years on employer attitudes, predictors of employment and improving delivery systems as they relate to individuals with blindness or low vision, with the ultimate goal of improving competitive employment outcomes and other indicators of employment success. In addition to being published in academic and professional journals, McDonnall and the center’s staff have translated research into plain language summaries for ease of access and understanding.

A certified rehabilitation counselor, McDonnall earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, a master’s from MSU and a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas. She serves as a peer reviewer for multiple professional journals and is a member of several professional organizations.

For more information on the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision visit

Established in 1903, MSU’s College of Education is now home to six academic departments, one research unit and numerous service units. For more about the college, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at