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NECO Celebrates Class of 2017 at 123rd Commencement

New England College of Optometry, NECO, celebrated its 123rd Commencement on Sunday, May 21, 2017 at Boston Symphony Hall. During the ceremony, the College conferred 134 Doctor of Optometry degrees to students in the four-year OD program and 12 degrees to participants in the following special programs: the Accelerated Optometry Degree Program (AODP), the Advanced Standing International Program (ASIP), and the MS/OD China program. Six students were awarded the Master of Science Degree and one student received a Bachelor of Science in Optometry Degree.

Following a processional led by Faculty Marshall Dr. Bruce Moore and Student Marshall Dr. Jane Gwiazda, President Clifford Scott welcomed the group and invited families, trustees, faculty, staff and alumni to celebrate the graduates and their accomplishments.  Reverend Nancy S. Taylor returned to provide an invocation filled with optometric references and humor.

group of alumni from classes of 1957 and 1967

Dr. Scott recognized the platform party, including members of the Board of Trustees, Senior Leadership, and members of the 50th and 60th anniversary classes, who graduated from Massachusetts College of Optometry in 1957 and 1967 respectively.Welcome and congratulatory messages were provided by Pano Yeracaris, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Dr. Tony Cavallerano, Executive Director of Clinical Training and Patient Care and Director of Professional Relations. Jonathon Jimmerson, OD ’12, offered a greeting to the Class of 2017 as a representative of the Alumni Association, noting several instances of how students had impacted their patients lives over the course of their education at NECO. He noted that the class had a global sense of impact and sense of purpose, a common theme during the speeches at the ceremony.

Dr. Scott with Norm Spector and Kris KoenigHonorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees were presented to Kris Koenig and Norman C. Spector, J.D. These degrees are presented annually to recognize an individual's professional achievements and contributions to the community. 

Kris Koenig is the director and producer of SIGHT, The Story of Vision, an hour long documentary being shown on public broadcasting the highlights the history of vision, optical devices, and other treatments used to improve sight.  In addition to being honored, Mr. Koenig also provided the keynote address and gifted each graduate with a copy of the documentary.

Kris Koenig at podiumMr. Koenig noted that the graduates had accomplished a major goal by achieving their Doctor of Optometry degree.  He went on to explain that “reaching goals only makes you set more goals.” He urged the Class of 2017 to continually set personal and professional goals, never forgetting to find ways to give their lives purpose. He explained that for him, it came from creating documentaries to enlighten society. For the graduates, it might take many different forms as they find ways to “work for the betterment of society at the highest level of your ability, and you will achieve your dreams.”

Honorary Degree recipient Norman C. Spector, JD, an attorney at Burns & Levinson, is a longtime member and past president of NECO’s Board of Trustees. He was honored for decades of voluntary service to the College.  He noted that graduation was “a fleeting moment” for students, but what they give to their patients is long-lasting. He went on to encourage the Class of 2017 to, “make life better for the people you serve.”

Presidential medals were awarded to Dr. David Fleishman and Blair Wong. Dr. David Fleishman. Dr. Fleishman, ophthalmologist, was honored for his lifetime work in collecting and archiving the world’s largest virtual optical museum as well as his knowledge on the history of lenses and frames.  Blair Wong, faculty member at NECO and Benjamin Franklin Institute, was awarded a Presidential Medal for his work in engaging student involvement and his devotion to student success.  Both Presidential Medal recipients were also instrumental in the development of SIGHT, The Story of Vision documentary.

Dr. Scott with Dr. FleishmanPresidential medal   Dr. Scott and Blair Wong






Anne Bertolet at podiumPresident Scott  noted that one defining feature of the Class of 2017 was its academic excellence.  He recognized Anne Nicolle Bertolet as class valedictorian, achieving the highest grade point average for classroom, lab, and clinical education. Recognizing the efforts of many students to keep them focused, entertained, and successful in her valedictory address, she noted, “Now is the time to move on. Keep learning and keep the memories with you.  Now, let’s do great things!”

Dr. Scott recognized students who have served on the student council during their time at the College. He then went on to honor those graduates who had earned clinical, academic, scholarship, and personal achievement awards at new England College of Optometry.

Dr. Harper and Dr. Sleight hooding a studentWilliam Sleight, OD’ 82, and Beth Harper, OD, were chosen by students this year as the 2017 faculty award recipients.

Dr. Sleight received the Foster Namias Award for outstanding teaching committed service to students, and to superior knowledge in his field.

Dr. Harper received the Carroll Martus Award for her excellence in teaching and her outstanding service to students and clinical faculty.

President Scott holding a diploma

As Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Robert DiMartino, OD, led the presentation of Masters Degree and Doctor of Optometry degrees, Drs. Sleight and Harper presented hoods to the doctoral candidates as President Scott presented diplomas to the group.  President Scott concluded the ceremony by conferring the degrees upon the group and Dr. Brian Klinger, immediate past president, Board of Trustees, led the group in the optometric oath.

View photos on our Flickr site. 


Half of graduates in gowns on stagesecond half of graduates on stage in gowns



The following students in the Class of 2017 were honored with awards:

Student Awards

  • Dr. Hyman R. Kamens Award: Cayla Bergstrom
  • National Optometric Student Association Award: Lauren Soukup
  • F. Dow Smith Award: Cayla Bergstrom
  • Dr. Edward Joseph Troendle, Jr. Award: Cayla Bergstrom

Academic Awards

  • Valedictory & Beta Sigma Kappa Medal: Anne Nicolle Bertolet
  • Salutatorian Award: Hilary Ann Hamer
  • Advanced Standing International Program Scholastic Achievement Award: Melanne Julie Rosetta
  • William R. Baldwin Scholastic Achievement Award: Juan Ding

Clinical Awards

Contact Lens

  • Alcon Case Report Award: Matthew Parker
  • GP Contact Lens Clinical Excellence Award: Blair Germain
  • American Optometric Foundation Award of Excellence in Contact Lens Patient Care: Avani Dave

Outstanding Clinical Performance

  • Class of 1969 Scholarship Award: Deepak Sharma
  • David A. Huebner, OD, 1986 Scholarship for Teaching Excellence Award: Anne Nicolle Bertolet
  • Marchon Eyewear Practice Management Award: Michael Cianca
  • New England College of Optometry Clinic Award: Emily Wiecek   
  • Robert A. Titelbaum Award: Andrew Rabkin


  • COVD Award for Excellence in Vision Therapy: Steven Weifenbach
  • Ira Schwartz Behavioral Vision Award: Steven Weifenbach
  • Good-Lite Equipment: Sari Schwartz 

Low Vision

  • Eschenbach Award for Excellence In Low Vision: Molly King
  • William Feinbloom Low Vision Award: Elizabeth Wassenaar
  • OPTELEC Excellence in Low Vision Award: Kelly Scherer

Scholarship Awards

  • Alumni Association Scholarship: Cayla Bergstrom, Faustino Santiago   
  • William C. Barrett Memorial Scholarship: Benjamin Young
  • Beider Moral Obligation Scholarship: Jennifer Bruhns, Emily Humphreys, Kelsey Jordan, Ryan Racette, and Evan Tirado
  • Monthe N. Kofos Scholarship: Steven Weifenbach
  • Charles Rob Soltes Scholarship: Melanne Julie Rosetta
  • Vision Service Plan Scholarship: Avani Dave and Michael Merritt
  • VOSH One Award: Sara Hanna
  • Ned S. Witkin Leadership in Low Vision Award: Rebecca Deffler
  • Walmart Scholarship: Michael Merritt