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NECO’s 125th Anniversary

2019 marks the quasquicentennial - 125th anniversary - for New England College of Optometry! Started in 1894 as the Klein School of Optics by August Klein, our College has grown to serve over 500 students a year, graduating excellent clinicians, compassionate providers, and optometric leaders.


Please join us throughout the year as we honor our past, embrace our future, share our stories, and celebrate our College together.

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NECO Leadership

  • August A. Klein, Dean and Founder, 1894-1936
  • Theodore F. Klein, Dean, 1936-1946
  • Herman L. Klein,  President*, 1946-1951
  • Ralph H. Green, Dean, 1946-1951
  • Joseph Montminy Sr.,  President*, 1951-1962
  • G. Edward Bradley, Board of Trustees President, 1962-1969
  • Hyman R. Kamens, Dean of the College, 1965-1969
  • William Baldwin, President, 1969-1979
  • F. Dow Smith, President, 1979-1985
  • Sylvio L. Dupuis, President, 1985-1989
  • Larry R. Clausen, President, 1989-1999
  • Alan Lewis, President, 1999-2006
  • Elizabeth Chen, President, 2006-2009
  • Clifford Scott, President, 2009-2018
  • Howard Purcell,  President, 2018 - 

President of Board of Trustees and the School/College

The Story of Optometry and Our College

The story of American optometry, and thus of the College, begins in 1783 with the sale of the first spectacles in the newly formed United States by John McAllister. For the next half of the century, ready-made glasses were sold by peddlers, door-to-door. By 1850, there was a sizable demand for glasses. Seizing an opportunity, the American Optical Company began producing glasses in 1869. Lenses, however, were still made in Europe, where they were perfected by microscope makers. In 1889, the United States began manufacturing optical glass and an industry was born.

Over the next decade, new devices to test vision were introduced and public interest increased. Dr. Klein, a practicing ophthalmologist, recognized the need for special training in the use of these devices and, in 1894, launched the Klein School of Optics at 2 Rutland Street in Boston. The forerunner of today's New England College of Optometry, the Klein School was one of the earliest formal training programs in optics and refraction in the United States. 

Co-educational from the start, the Klein School offered a one-year program designed primarily for high school students. The curriculum offered short-term courses in Optics, Anatomy, Pathology, Mathematics, Physics, Dispensing, and Refraction. The faculty was composed of seven instructors including August Klein and three of his grown children, Theodore F. Klein, Herman L. Klein, and Wilhelmina A. Svedsen. His oldest son, Paul, owned a pharmacy on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets.

Over the past 125 years, the Klein School of Optics has grown, changed names and locations multiple times, and developed into the thriving college of optometry with over 500 students enrolled each year in the four-year OD, AODP, ASIP, and MS/OD programs.  Learn more about our 125 year history and view our timeline.