128th Commencement Celebrates the Class of 2022
New England College of Optometry Celebrated its 128th Commencement at Boston Symphony Hall on May 15, 2022. Watch full video from the day’s event.
The New England College of Optometry (NECO) conferred Doctor of Optometry degrees to students in the four-year OD program, plus six students were awarded a Master’s Degree in Vision Science concurrently with their OD degree.
Drs. Mark W. O’Donoghue and Fuensanta Vera-Diaz served as faculty and student marshals and led the processionals. In attendance were the New England College of Optometry faculty, staff, senior leadership, members of the Board of Trustees, alumni board members, distinguished honorees, and family and friends of the graduating class.
NECO Executive Vice President (EVP), Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Traci Logan, MS welcomed the Class of 2022 and introduced the faculty, staff, Board Members, and special guests in attendance. Her remarks were followed by a welcome by Board of Trustees Chair Kristen Griebel, OD ’97.
Honorary Degree Awards
NECO Board of Trustees member Ronald Ferrucci, OD ’74 introduced the 2022 recipients for the Honorary Degrees in Ocular Science. This year, NECO honors the lives and work of Drs. Jack Geiger (1925-2020) and Count Gibson (1921-2002) whose establishment of community health centers in 1965 helped pave the way for NECO and other optometry schools to integrate a clinical-based teaching method into their curriculum. In 1972, the New England College of Optometry became the first optometry school in the country to collaborate with the Clinical Health Center (CHC) system in Boston. In doing so, NECO transformed its clinical training program and contributed significantly to the delivery of eye care to diverse populations across the Commonwealth. To date, NECO has provided over one million eye examinations for CHC patients.
Accepting the Degrees on behalf of Drs. Geiger and Gibson were Dr. Jim Hunt, the former President and CEO of Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and current President and CEO Michael Curry, Esquire.
Dr. Hunt spoke of the differences between each health center, but the common thread between them is the communities they serve need comprehensive healthcare.
“Jack [would] praise[d] this college on many occasions for stepping up to fill the gaps of need in eyecare services, workforce in communities, and coordinating primary care at the local level. He would praise NECO for policy leadership in providing eye care not only to CHC communities; but to veterans, children with low vision, and advocating from Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill.”
In closing, Dr. Hunt advised students, “Remember that your patients are very vulnerable and need your understanding and kindness. Jack and I would say to give back to your community wherever you are practicing.”
In addition to these two accomplished physicians, Randall Pugh the CEO of Destiny Dream Consulting, LLC, and Destiny Dream Labs was also awarded an honorary degree for his ingenuity and transformative electro-ophthalmic devices. With well over five hundred issued patents and as a named inventor on more than 1900 patents, Pugh has continually helped to move the field of optometry forward and has had a direct impact on patients and the way optometrists administer care.
Although Pugh was unable to attend the ceremony, he shared these words with the graduates, “People are the enablers for all the other resources that we have. People put resources to work, people make things happen…People will always be the main reason things move forward and it is vital to be around individuals who differ from yourself.
“…We often surround ourselves with people that are very similar to ourselves, same cultural background, education background, same birth country, etc. Surrounding ourselves with a diverse group of people gives us the advantage of having many different viewpoints and perspectives and without question, leads to better, more complete, and more robust solutions.”
To contribute to robust solutions, a person needs to commit to lifelong learning. “…in 2022, human knowledge doubles about every 12 hours. With new tools like AI coming online this progression of knowledge will continue to accelerate at an almost inconceivable rate. It’s obvious that you will quickly be left behind if you do not continue updating your knowledge.”
Presidential Medal of Honor
The Presidential Medal of Honor was presented by EVP Logan, MS to Drs. Darryl Glover and Adam Ramsey who founded Black EyeCare Perspective. The organization was designed to cultivate and foster lifelong relationships between Black eyecare professionals and the eyecare industry and to create a pipeline for Black students into optometry. The organization spearheaded the 13% Promise, an initiative committed to improve and increase representation of Black and African Americans in the industry to align with the United States Census population.
Dr. Glover shared his experience of attending optometry events with Dr. Ramsey being the only Black optometrists there. Black Eyecare Perspective was born from these experiences and noticing patient care and education were mostly centered around white communities. Both Drs. Glover and Ramsey spoke of their dedication to opening the field of optometry to more people who look like them and getting the word out to communities who might not have considered pursuing optometry.
“To the graduates who are entering into this industry, my call to action for you is to open doors for students of color, or for people who don’t look like you,” shared Dr. Ramsey. “Give them opportunities to shadow and work, reaching out to provide opportunities makes a difference. To see them in this chair is what I call on you today. You are the future…and I am excited to see what this future holds, because you get to shape it.”
Presidential Medal of Courage
This year, the Presidential Medal of Courage was presented to the NECO Operations and Facilities Department. As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted, and continues to impact, the NECO campus and how we operate, the Operations team has remained committed to our community and ensuring everyone’s safety. Members of the team included: Shawne Gillies, Tecleab Neguse, Mollie Forman, Brianna Hudson, Peter Rijntjes, Samson Abade, Jacklin Tunis, Isreal Ruggs, Manayelet Denekew, Jacqueline Mina, Edouard Dalexis, Tina Sanford, and Abbie Courage. With 2022 being the third year we have awarded this medal, NECO is proud to acknowledge the hard work of our staff.
In recognition of the team’s reliance, Shawne Gillies, CFM, Director of Campus Planning and Facilities Management shared, “In a time of need, one reaches into their core and draws upon their experience. One measures, one calculates, one plans, and then one acts. That is what this team was called upon to do and time after time they rose as one. I stand here, but this team has been behind this community for years and decades.”
2022 Class Valedictorian: Sharon Qiu
Sharon Qiu, Class of 2022 provided the valedictory remarks to her classmates and the NECO community. As valedictorian, she received the highest-grade point average for classroom, lab, and clinical education. Dr. Qiu graduated from McGill University in Quebec with a Bachelor of Science degree from the prestigious neuroscience program. During her time there, Qiu joined a vision science research lab, where she was drawn to myopia research.
In addition to an OD, she also earned a Masters Degree in Vision Science with NECO focusing her Master’s project on novel interventions of myopia control. Over the course of optometry school, Qiu rotated through NECO’s myopia control and contact lens clinics and solidified her passion for myopia control and contact lens care. Her rotation with Dr. Edward Boshnick at the Global Vision Rehabilitation Center in Miami truly opened her eyes to the power of specialty contact lenses for complex anterior segment disease management. Inspired by her clinical experiences, Dr. Qiu will start a residency in Cornea and Contact Lenses at the University of Waterloo in August 2022.
Her words inspired her classmates and all attendees as she shared the experience that prepared them for their optometry careers.
“We’re uniquely positioned to promote the expansion of scopes as the first class to take the Advanced Surgical and Laser Procedures course, to use the newest technologies, such as impression-based custom scleral lenses, to create a solution for patients, and to meet the growing demand for eye care with an aging population,” Qiu highlighted.
“However, we may continue battling limitations of the field, like online services that challenge brick and mortar optical sales and constant struggles with third-party reimbursements. Looking forward, NECO has prepared us to embrace the opportunities fully and to tackle the challenges head-on.”
Class of 2022 Hooding and Diplomas
Before the conferring of degrees, EVP Logan, MS acknowledged the students who had served on the Student Council for their commitment and contributions to NECO as well as those who received awards for clinical excellence, personal achievement, academic excellence, and scholarship awards. Candidates were hooded by NECO faculty members Jennifer Reilly, OD, MS and Mark W. O’Donoghue, OD as Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Erik Weissberg, OD read the names. Traci Logan, MS was assisted by Class of 2024 Student Class President Sara Masood in the Conferral of Degrees. Professor of Clinical Optometry and Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs Kristen Brown, OD, FAAO then led the new Doctors in the Optometric Oath.
Class of 2022 Awards and Achievements
Academic Achievement Awards
- Valedictory Award & Beta Sigma Kappa Medal: Sharon Qiu
- Salutatorian Award: Camille Bedard
- Advanced Standing International Program Scholastic Achievement Award: Anthony Tran
- William R. Baldwin Scholastic Achievement Award: Samuel Valley
Personal Achievement Awards
- Dr. Hyman R. Kamens Award: Rachel Schwalbe
- F. Dow Smith Award: Emily Janse Van Rensburg
- Dr. Edward Joseph Troendle, Jr. Award: Emily Janse Van Rensburg
- David A. Huebner, OD, 1986 Scholarship for Teaching Excellence: Brittany Bowman
- Faculty Scholarship Award: Brittany Bowman
- Alumni Association Scholarship: Becky Su
- Vision Service Plan Scholarship: William Hogue, Jessica Tarka
- Beider Scholarship: Jade Liu
- Alcon Award: Sharon Qiu
- AAOF Award of Excellence in Contact Lens: Evelyn Zhang
Outstanding Clinical Performance
- William C. Barrett Memorial Scholarship: Julie Kang
- Class of 1969 Scholarship: Sabrina Schiano
- New England College of Optometry Clinic Award: Samantha Valiando
Pediatrics & Vision Therapy Awards
- COVD Award for Excellence in Vision Therapy: Alexandra Goralski
Ira Schwartz Behavioral Vision Award: Lauren Butler
Good-Lite Equipment Award: Rachel Schwalbe
- Eschenbach Award for Excellence in Low Vision: Samantha Valiando
- William Feinbloom Low Vision Award: Renitarul Sebastin
- Optelec Excellence in Low Vision Award: Samira Mortazavi
- Ned S. Witkin Leadership in Low Vision Award: Brittany Bowman
Teaching Excellence Awards
- Foster Namias – Dr. Bina Patel
- Carroll Martus – Dr. Jennifer Reilly