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Decades of Change

By 1942, Ralph Green was the new dean of the school. By 1943, the number of students per class had dwindled to four or five in each class, as many students of the school dropped out to fight in World War II. With the smaller class size, the school consolidated its class and office spaces at the clinic on Commonwealth Avenue, leaving the Boylston building behind. When the war ended, the school rented space on Huntington Avenue, near Northeastern University. With the school lacking in faculty, money, and equipment, Dean Green, himself, moved all the tables and chairs that the school owned to the new Huntington Avenue location, with a truck borrowed from a nearby meat market.

A few years later, in 1946, at the age of 68, Dr. Klein died unexpectedly from a cerebral hemorrhage while at work. Up to that point, the school had been run essentially as a family business, with the Kleins pouring any money they had into the school. On the verge of disbanding, the school was incorporated in 1946 as a non-profit entity and Herman Klein, son of August Klein, was named President. Ralph Green was named vice president, and Theodora Klein, another of Herman’s children, was named secretary. That same year, an accelerated program was created to help returning GIs and that class size swelled to 98, putting the school on solid ground again.

Over the next 10 years, the College experienced many changes. In 1947, the College was granted unconditional accreditation In 1950, the Massachusetts School of Optometry also changed its name to the Massachusetts College of Optometry and began conferring bachelor of science degrees in optometry. The following year, it began granting degrees in doctor of optometry and doctor of ocular science. The class size during this time period held steady at around 60 students. The College then moved again, this time to 178 Newbury Street, which had formerly been the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in the 1890s and which today houses one of the many retail shops on Newbury Street.

In the same year, the school purchased the Commonwealth Avenue property from the Klein family and established the Boston Eye Clinic. Dr. Green visited charitable organizations in Boston and surrounding cities, offering screenings to children in need, performed by teams of four or five senior optometry students. Among these organizations was the Italian Home for Children, the Home for Catholic Children, and the Home for Little Wanderers. Over the years, thousands of Boston’s children were brought to the clinic for care, much of it given for free. Offering a “charity clinic” had been Theodore Klein’s dream, a dream realized with the establishment of the Boston Eye Clinic

In the 1960s, the College basketball team won the Boston Small College Conference championship in Boston Garden. The school’s alumni association was active during this time period, implementing vocational guidance programs at area high schools and colleges. The association also made significant contributions to the College’s building fund and scholarship aid. In 1965, Ralph Green retired as dean and Hyman Kamens was selected as the new dean in 1967, the school received its first federal grant. At the same time, however, enrollment in optometry programs dropped across the country. Most schools of optometry and the American Optometric Association began national recruitment campaigns.

In 1965, the College purchased the Copley Methodist Church, near the Horace Mann building on Newbury Street. The next year, it was re-accredited, but with the recommendation that a president be hired. Also notable during this period, Dean Kamens helped establish an affiliation with a US public health service hospital, the first college of optometry to do so. In 1969, William Baldwin was named President of the College. He would remain President for 10 years. Dr. Baldwin brought enormous change to the College and optometry. Notable milestones during his tenure as President include the securement of approximately $3 million in grants, expansion of the College’s community service, and changing the College curriculum to train the student optometrist to be a primary care provider. Dr. Baldwin also facilitated the purchase of the 420-426 Beacon Street buildings, where the College resides. The 420 Beacon Street building (link to library history, which can be its own page), where the current NECO library is located, was originally constructed for a famous Boston family in 1894 and was the first “fireproof” building to be constructed after Boston’s Great Fire of 1872.

In the 1970s, the College was reaccredited and changed its name to the New England College of Optometry. Norman Wallace was hired as the director of special studies at the College. Dr. Wallace developed several special programs, including a two-year accelerated program, which is currently known as the AODP.He also initiated continuing education programs, a three-year master’s program, and a collaborative PhD program in vision science with Northeastern University. The College also partnered with Fisher Junior College in offering an associate’s degree in optometry techniques. President Baldwin made several attempts during this time to affiliate the College formally with larger educational institutions, such as Boston University, Tufts University. The College maintained its independence and ultimately did not affiliate with another university. During the 1970’s, enrollment climbed to 300 and full time faculty numbered at about 60. In 1975, the College also became the first to certify optometrists in the use of diagnostic pharmaceutical agents.

NECO Class of 1942