2021 commencement keynote speaker announced

headshots of phillip chong and wayne zahka

New England College of Optometry today announced the keynote address at its 2021 Commencement.  The keynote address will be delivered by Phillip Chong, a leader for social change whose innovative vision and grass-roots organizing has had a transformative impact for the immigrant community in Massachusetts and beyond.

Phillip Chong, the President & CEO of Quincy Asian Resources Inc. (QARI), a non-profit immigrant social service agency based in Massachusetts and New York City.

Phillip Chong is a social service entrepreneur and an innovator who finds his life calling when he decided to change his career track from the private sector to social service at age 40.  As an Asian American and immigrant himself, Philip was selected for the 2020 Leader of Change by USA TODAY, a series of local activist stories who are inspired as the leader by the late Congressman John Lewis, and are guiding the community through the chaos of today’s civil rights fight. Since the growing increase of anti-Asian hate crime, Philip has led the communities in Massachusetts, New York City, and Los Angeles in rallies, forums, and most recent #WhistleAgainstAAPIHate to show their support and solidarity for the Asian community.

Philip has helped transform the social service sector and led a grass-root community based organization from the second-tier city in Massachusetts to expand his vision of true impact to other cities and towns, New York City, the Merrimack Valley, Lowell, and East Boston. Since the pandemic started, Philip and the QARI team pivoted their work into PPE manufacturing to save thousands of local workforce and supported a daily 150K-unit PPE production to the US Navy and the frontline workers; and to prepare and deliver over one million culturally sensitive meals door-to-door to homebound elders and vulnerable families in Massachusetts and New York City. Philip does not stop here. He is working on a project to build a 20K SF fashion manufacturing and workforce training center in New York City to help underprivileged Asians and immigrants who are inspired to become a fashion designer by teaching and guiding them through product conception, brand development, sourcing, production, logistics and sales.

Philip had worked at Fortune 500 companies and higher education institutions before joining QARI.  Philip grew up in Hong Kong, China and moved to this country when he was 16 to pursue the American dream.  He is a father of two daughters.  He is passionate in visual and performing arts; and enjoys his daily running as the time to reflect.

Wayne Zahka, OD ’84, Diplomate ABO, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Society of Optometrists (MSO), will accept the Presidential Medal of Honor on behalf of the MSO.

Wayne Zahka, OD ’84, Diplomate ABO, was named Executive Director of the Massachusetts Society of Optometrists (MSO) on April 2, 2020 on the cusp of a major pandemic.  Dr. Zahka is past recipient of Optometrist of the Year, who spent the majority of his career in private practice. He is a 37-year member and active volunteer, of both the MSO and the American Optometric Association.

Throughout his career he has successfully chaired all the major committees of the MSO, has served on committees for the AOA, the advisory board of Tufts Health Plan, and the State Board of Examiners. From 2016-2020 he was the MSO Legislation Chairperson. He was instrumental in revamping and redirecting the MSO legislation strategy which led to the passage of Glaucoma and oral pharmaceutical privileges in Massachusetts on January 1, 2021.

Dr. Zahka and the MSO successfully advocated for the passing of a bill that allows optometrists to prescribe topical medications and oral pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of glaucoma and other ocular abnormalities of the eye, moving the state in line with common optometric practice across the rest of the country while expanding access for glaucoma care across the state.