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Honoring Our Past

New England College of Optometry was founded in 1894 by August Klein as the Klein School of Optics. The name was later changed to Massachusetts School of Optometry, Massachusetts College of Optometry, and later New England College of Optometry. Today, the College educates 500 students a year through its four-year OD program and several specialty, international, and dual degree programs.


125 Years of Innovation and Visionary Leadership

During the past 125 years ago, over 7,000 dedicated students, innovators, and thinkers have attended what is now called New England College of Optometry.  Collectively, they have provided excellent patient care to tens of thousands of individuals in New England, across the country, and throughout the world.  Our graduates have become leaders, innovators, investigators, educators, practitioners, and advocates for the profession.  Below, we'd like to honor some of our history and trailblazers who have helped pave the way for optometry today.  If you have a piece of critical history we can add to our timeline, please send it to communications@neco.edu.  To learn more about our history in detail, visit NECO's History. To learn more about where we are headed, visit Embracing Our Future.


Timeline Featuring Highlights of NECO History

1894
Dr. Klein sitting at desk

Klein School of Optics Established

August Klein, a German immigrant and practicing ophthalmologist, opens the Klein School of Optics at 2 Rutland Street Boston. The school offers the first formal training in optics and refraction in the United States.

1897
Historical photo showing man at desk and two women looking at optometry equipment. Sign on window is backwards and says August Klein Optometrist.

Curriculum expands

The one year curriculum of Optics, Anatomy, Pathology, Mathematics, Physics, Dispensing, and Refraction is expanded to include Ophthalmology, Chemistry, Trigonometry, and Mechanical Optics. August Klein teaches Chemistry and Anatomy and his son Theodore teaches Physics. Tuition for full course is $75 and a single term is $30.
 

1897
Historical photo of classroom with students in suits sitting in desks facing the camera.

15 Students Graduate

Among 15 men and women graduating this year is Herman Klein, a son of August Klein.

1901
Historical photo of classroom in with desks facing front of room.

Massachusetts School of Optometry

The Klein School becomes the Massachusetts School of Optometry.

1909
Students sitting at rows of tables with professor in front in historic black and white photo.

Two year program established

A formal two-year program is offered as an alternative to the last half of high school. The school is reorganized and incorporated with Theodore Klein as Director.

1915

Students Required to be 19

The school requires students to be 19 years old to coincide with license eligibility of 21, as mandated by the Board of Registration of Optometry. The school is located at 168 Massachusetts Avenue.

1921
Historical photo with old optometric equipment on table.

New Admissions requirements

In addition to the age stipulation, admission requirements no include four years of high school or the equivalent of “good moral character.” Tuition is now $175 per year. In addition to August and Theodore Klein, the faculty includes Wilhelmina Klein Svedsen, August’s daughter, for Anatomy and Physics, and Herman for Practice Optics and Business Management.

1927

Ralph Green Enrolls at School

Ralph Green enrolls in a class of 20; three years later, he joins the faculty for more than 35 years. He serves as Dean from 1946-1965.

1930
Class of 1930 photo

School memorabilia collection begins

Morris Berman graduates with nine others (out of an original 13) and begins a collection of School memorabilia that adds significantly to our archives.

1933

First external clinic opens

The School moves to 1112 Boylston Street. The Massachusetts Optometric Clinic opens at 1114 - 1118 Boylston at the Harry E. Burroughs Newsboys Foundation Medical Clinic.  The first patients, were boys off the streets of Boston's West End and they were supplied with glasses at no cost.

1934
MSO basketball team posing for photo in 1934

Course of Study extended

The course of study is extended from two to three years. Ralph Green starts a school basketball team!

1936

Theodore Klein named 2nd President

August Klein dies. Theodore Klein is named the second President and serves for the next ten years.

1936
Three Epsilon Omicron Sigma sorority members.

Epsilon Omicron Sigma Formed

Epsilon Omicron Sigma, the School’s first sorority, is formed.

1939
Historic photo of students looking through optometric equipment at desks.

Four Year Curriculum Begins

A four-year curriculum is initiated. Tuition and fees are $375. The School remains at 1112 Boylston but the Clinic moves to 472 Commonwealth Avenue.

1942
Class of 1942 class photo

Ralph Green becomes Dean

John Asarkof joins Otto Hochstadt and about 18 other faculty members in reporting to Ralph Green, who is now Dean. Dr. Asarkof notes that the profession was still developing, “We did refractions, fitted glasses. Contact lenses were in their infancy.”

1943

WWII interrupts education

Frank Kozol, who had enrolled in a class of 100 the previous year, joins other students to interrupt their education and join the service. He will complete his education after the War and join the faculty in 1951.

1945

Tight times during WWII

As WWII ends, enrollment drops sharply to four or five students in each class and finances dwindle. School facilities are consolidated with the Clinic at 472 Commonwealth Avenue.

1946

Herman Klein becomes third President

Shortly before his death, Theodore Klein moves the School to Huntington Avenue, over a bowling alley. The Clinic remains at 472 Commonwealth. On the verge of disbanding, new incorporators name Herman Klein - President, Ralph Green - Vice President and Dean, and Theodora Klein -Secretary. Herman Klein becomes third President of the school.

1946

Non-profit charter granted

After the reorganization, a non-profit charter is granted with the right to confer professional degrees. An accelerated program to assist returning G.I.s sees the class size grow from 28 to 98. 

1947
Photo of students at table from the 1950s with microscopes

School is accredited by AOA

The American Optometric Association (AOA) Council on Education and Professional Guidance grants unconditional accreditation.

1948

School moves to Newbury Street

The School acquires and moves into a new location at 178 Newbury Street.

1950
Massachusetts College of Optometry

Massachusetts College of Optometry

The School becomes the Massachusetts College of Optometry and is granted the right to confer the degree of Bachelor of Science in Optometry. The following year, the school begins to confer the Doctor of Optometry and honorary Doctor of Ocular Science. The tuition is $400 and class size is 60.

1951

Joseph Montminy Sr. becomes fourth President

Joseph Montminy Sr. is selected as the College’s fourth President and serves until 1962. Herman Klein dies.

1952
Two optometrists by sign that says Eye Clinic.

Boston Eye Clinic Established

The College remains in property acquired in 1948 at 178 Newbury Street. The College purchases 472 Commonwealth Avenue from the Klein family and establishes the Boston Eye Clinic.

1953

First Doctor of Optometry conferred

Ira Schwartz receives the College’s first Doctor of Optometry degree, having completed the four-year program in three years.

1957

Contact Lens Offering

A 20-hour post-graduate course in contact lens fitting is offered. The College retires the mortgage, held by the Boston Wesleyan Society, on the Horace Mann Building.

1962
Edward Bradley

G. Edward Bradley becomes President

The College selects G. Edward Bradley as President.

1962

Honorary Degree created

The College is granted the right to confer the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.

1964

Alumni Association raises funds

Among the accomplishments of a very active Alumni Association are the implementation of vocational guidance programs at area high schools, junior colleges, and colleges; significant contributions to the College Building fund; and scholarship aid.

1965
Hyman Kamens

Hyman Kamen's becomes dean

Ralph Green retires and Hyman R. Kamens selected as next Dean.

1967

Federal grant received

The College receives its first federal grant to improve the academic program. Tuition is now $1,000.

1968

College Affiliates with US Public Health Hospital

The College becomes the first optometry school to affiliate with a US Public Service Health Hospital. Three fourth-year students were assigned to the Eye Clinic of the Hospital on a rotating weekly basis, under faculty supervision.

1969
Old building with sign that says Dorchester House Multi-Service Center

Affiliation with Neighborhood Health Centers begins

The College begins its long-standing affiliations with Boston’s Neighborhood Health Centers.

1969
William R. Baldwin

William R. Baldwin becomes president

The College appoints William R. Baldwin as  President. Among the milestones of Dr. Baldwin’s 10-year tenure is the acquisition of approximately $3 million in grants, the expansion of community service, the shift in curriculum to establish the optometrist’s role as primary eye care provider.

1971
exterior of 424 beacon street building

Beacon Street Buildings purchased.

The College purchases the Beacon Street Buildings, which become it’s new home.

1972

Use of Diagnostic Pharmaceutical Agents

The College is the first to certify optometrists in the use of diagnostic pharmaceutical agents.

1972

MCO Forms AOSA Chapter

MCO Student Council votes to become the 9th chapter of the AOSA - the American Optometric Student Association. Read more about the AOSA in this article by Ronald R. Ferrucci, OD '74, FAAO. 

1976

New England College of Optometry

The College’s name is changed to the New England College of Optometry to reflect its regional commitments.

1978
Logo for the VA Health Care, Defining Excellence in the 21st century

Formal Clinical Affiliation with VA begins

The College establishes its formal clinical affiliation with the Veteran’s Administration (VA).

1979
F. Dow Smith

F. Dow Smith becomes President

F. Dow Smith becomes the next President and will serve until 1985. During this period the focus is on fiscal and long-range planning. The enrollment is around 300.

1985
sylvio dupuis

Sylvio L. Dupuis Becomes President

Sylvio L. Dupuis begins four years as the College's President, concentrating on the College’s internal structure and organization, fund raising, and endowment. Tuition for the four year program is $10,650 per year and enrollment is approximately 350 students.

1990
Larry Clausen

Larry Clausen becomes President

Larry R. Clausen, named Dean of Academic Affairs in 1982 and later Acting President, is inaugurated as College’s President. Among his early focuses are greater participation by Trustees, development of income sources other than tuition, and wide-ranged planning for the 1990s.

1991
Two men standing in rotunda holding blueprints

Beacon Street renovated

Renovation of the facilities at Beacon Street begins

1992
Larry Clausen and Chinese leader exchanging documents while big group claps in background. Banner in Chinese hangs behind them.

NECO signs agreement with Wenzhou

Board Chair Joseph Bickford and Dr. Clausen lead a delegation to China to establish faculty exchange and fellowship programs. An agreement is signed with Wenzhou Medical College in China.

1993

International programs flourish

Additional international programs now exist in Italy, Spain, and South America. Tuition for the four-year program is now $17,460 a year and the enrollment is approximately 400.

1994
Page from newsletter entitled Centennial gala with text and 9 photos of guests.

Centennial Celebration

The New England College of Optometry marks 100 years of growth with Centennial celebrations and expansive goals for the next century.

1995

Myopia Research Center Opens

The College receives its first federal research grant and establishes the Myopia Research Center.

1998

Dr. Kamen Honored for 50 Years

The College hosts a gala to honor Dr. Kamen’s fifty years of service.

1999

College Receives Awards for Renovations

Following extensive renovations, the College is recognized with numerous local and national outstanding historic preservation awards.

1999
Alan Lewis

Alan Lewis Becomes President

Dr. Alan Lewis becomes President of the College. During his tenure, College’s nationwide network of affiliated clinical sites grew to include over 50 clinics, hospitals, and specialized care facilities, including three sites in other countries.

2000

NECO Hosts Myopia Conference

The College hosts the eighth International Conference on Myopia.

2002

Clinic Moves to Commonwealth

New England Eye, the College’s clinic, moves to 930 Commonwealth Ave.

2006
Elizabeth Chen

Elizabeth Chen becomes President

Elizabeth Chen is selected to become the College's first female President. Ms. Chen expanded the educational infrastructure with capability for synchronous distance learning, secured federal and private funding for research and electronic health records, and increased philanthropy to the school.

2009

115th Anniversary

The College celebrates its 115th Anniversary.

2009
President Clifford Scott

Clifford Scott becomes NECO's 12th President

Clifford Scott, OD '68, MPH, is selected as the College's next President. President Scott strengthened local, national, and international partnerships, as well as pushing for strong advocacy of the profession, adapted to the changing field of health care, and embraced technology.

2010
mobile eye clinic

College Launches Mobile Eye Clinic

NECO and New England Eye launch the mobile eye clinic to improve access to vision care in underserved communities in Massachusetts.

2010

College Hosts Profiles in Vision

The College hosts its first Profiles in Vision at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum highlighting NECO’s partnership with Community Health Centers.

2013

Practice Management Software Gains Traction

Practice Management Simulation Software developed by NECO Professor Dr. David Mills sets a new standard in health care education. The simulation is part of the Business Management Course at NECO and used by other colleges of optometry.

2017
Center for Eye Care logo

New England Eye Changes Name

New England Eye is renamed the New England College of Optometry (NECO) Center for Eye Care to better align the clinic with the College. The name is used for both the Roslindale and Commonwealth locations.

2017

Newly renovated clinic opens

The College renovates the clinic at 930 Commonwealth Avenue (NECO Center for Eye Care) and opens a beautiful new state-of-the-art street-level clinic and optical center at the Clinical Campus.

2017
President Scott and president of Orbis

NECO Announces Partnership with ORBIS

The College announces a formal partnership with Orbis International, an international non-profit committed to the elimination of avoidable blindness through healthcare provider training.

2018

Clinical Training Center Opens

NECO opens the Clinical Training Center at 940 Commonwealth Avenue, a state-of-the-art student training facility utilizing current technologies to best prepare students for practice.

2018

Howard Purcell Becomes 13th President

New England College of Optometry welcomes Howard Purcell, OD '84, FAAO as  president.

2019

NECO Celebrates 125 years

New England College of Optometry celebrates its 125th anniversary since its beginning as the Klein School of Optics in 1894.