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New England College of Optometry Celebrates Commencement on May 17, 2015

NECO celebrates 121st Commencement Exercises on May 17, 2015 and confers OD degrees, MS in Vision Science degrees, and BS in Optometry degrees

On Sunday, May 17, 2015, New England College of Optometry, NECO, celebrated 121 years of continuous optometric education with its commencement exercises. The ceremony took place at John Hancock Hall in Boston. Participating in the ceremony were Class of 1955 and 1965 alumni, as well as NECO Board members, faculty, and leadership. During the ceremony, NECO conferred 117 Doctor of Optometry Degrees, five Master of Science in Vision Science degrees, and two Bachelor of Science in Optometry degrees.

Commencement 2015 began with a processional led by Nancy Coletta, OD, PhD, and Bina Patel, OD, and an invocation delivered by Reverend Nancy S. Taylor. Welcome and congratulatory messages were delivered by President Clifford Scott, OD ’68, MPH, Board Chair Brian S. Klinger, New England Eye Executive Director of Clinical Operations David Mills, OD ’80, and Alumni Association President William Gleason, OD ’74.

New England College of Optometry presented 2015 honorary degrees to Jordan Kassalow, OD ’88, Richard Wallingford, Jr. OD ’75, and Irving Bennett, OD. In introducing the honorary degrees, President Scott said, “We award honorary degrees in recognition of a person’s achievements in the profession and contributions to the improvement of a community at large.” The three recipients bring a wealth of experience and contribution in the areas of global access to eyecare and eyeglasses, service on optometric boards and councils, private practice, and practice management. Each of the three award recipients had helpful advice for the graduates that they shared as they accepted their awards.

Honorary Degree Recipient/Keynote Address: Dr. Jordan Kassalow, OD ’88


Dr. Jordan Kassalow, OD ’88, delivered the keynote address to graduates, encouraging students to dare to matter in their lives and careers. Dr. Kassalow is the Founder and Co-Chairman of VisionSpring, an organization dedicated to providing affordable access to eyeglasses for everyone, as well as a practicing partner at Drs. Farkas, Kassalow, Resnick & Associates. During his address, he encouraged the Class of 2015 to make an impact throughout their careers. He challenged them to “Dare to matter, figure out how to matter, and decide what to do that matters.”

For Dr. Kassalow, daring to matter began when he was a NECO student and first heard about VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) at a student presentation. He soon traveled to Mexico on a VOSH medical mission. One of the first people he saw was a seven year old child holding a braille book and a vacant look. As he performed his eye exam, he realized he did not see any signs of blindness in the child’s eyes. Instead, the child was actually profoundly nearsighted. After rummaging through a bin of donated glasses, he experienced a life changing moment for both himself and the child. “Two people’s lives changed that day. He got vision and I did too. I discovered how I could matter.”

For Dr. Kassalow, this was the moment freedom and destiny merged for him and the act of mattering became a lifelong dedication and challenge. In helping to co-found VisionSpring, Dr. Kassalow works to provide eyeglasses to individuals around the world, explaining his belief that “no child should fail out of school and no adult should lose their livelihood” because they do not have glasses. Helping to restore vision and provide access to eyeglasses has been his way to matter in the world. He challenged the graduates to find their own purpose, passion, and vision in their careers. He closed his address by quoting Francis Chan, explaining to students that their “greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

Honorary Degree Recipient: Dr. Richard Wallingford, Jr., OD ’75


Dr. Richard Wallingford, Jr., OD ’75 is the past President of the American Optometric Association, serving as President from 2005-2006. In addition to practicing in Maine, he has served on many optometric committees and boards, including the NECO Board of Trustees. Dr. Wallingford, shared his advice in a top ten list of helpful tips.

The Top Ten Things I Wish I’d Known When I Graduated from New England College of Optometry” by Dr. Wallingford, Jr. OD ’75

  1. Practice where you want to live. Choose a location for your practice carefully. 
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of clinical experience. These experiences really matter and make you a better doctor. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to challenge any practice modality. 
  4. Balancing the demands of practice with a family life will be a juggling act. 
  5. Expect the unexpected and be flexible. You cannot plan for the twists and turns your life may take. 
  6. No matter where you practice, everyone wants a piece of your pie. Your practice will be impacted by insurance policies and practices. 
  7. Politicians may try to change what your license allows, so get involved with state and local organizations and advocate for the profession. 
  8. Don’t wait until tomorrow to pursue your dreams - live every day to the fullest. 
  9. Some days your practice will be gut-wrenching. 
  10. Some days your practice will be immensely rewarding. 

Honorary Degree Recipient: Dr. Irving Bennett

Dr. Irving Bennett served as an optometrist in World War II and went on to start a successful private practice in Western Pennsylvania. In addition to practicing, he helped found the magazine “Optometric Management” to help optometrists focus on the business of their practice. Dr. Bennett shared his “Three C’s” advice with the graduating class: Consideration, Communication, and Contribution.

  1. Consideration: Dr. Bennett told students to be considerate in their interactions with patients. He encouraged them to think of every patient as a parent, a friend, a person, and a VIP. “Be considerate and treat them well.” 
  2. Communication: Dr. Bennett explained that communication is a vital part of every exam. “No matter what time of day it is, how tired you are or how long the exam has lasted, always end every exam by asking, ‘Are there any other questions you have?’ and listen closely.” 
  3. Contribution: Dr. Bennett encouraged graduates to always find a way to contribute, to donate and to be a giver. “Find ways to help provide healthcare for the poor and needy and to anyone who needs it. Find ways to give back to NECO since they have given you a fine education. Always find ways to contribute.” 

Presidential Medal Recipient: Dr. Ronald Ferrucci, OD ‘74


Commencement activities also honored Dr. Ronald Ferrucci, OD ’74, with the Presidential Medal. The Presidential Medal is awarded at the discretion of the President to individuals who have enhanced the prestige and reputation of the College. Dr. Ferrucci was chosen for his service to the College as well as the profession. In addition to running a successful practice in Milford with his son, Greg Ferrucci, OD ’06, he has been a driving force in the expansion of the scope of practice in Massachusetts, leading the legislative efforts for the inclusion of diagnostic and pharmaceuticals. He is an active member of NECO’s Board of Trustees, chairing the Student Affairs Council. Accepting the award, Dr. Ferrucci noted that he has worked with others to “modernize optometry in Massachusetts” through advocacy efforts. He urged students to “become advocates and ambassadors for our own profession.”

Class Valedictorian: Nicole Marie Janier

Valedictorian Nicole Marie Janier achieved the highest grade point average for classroom, lab, and clinical education. “I could not have asked for a better four years than the ones I had at NECO. I am leaving here with great knowledge base and strong clinical skills thanks to the guidance of professors and preceptors. During my years here, I have been fortunate to form a close group of good friends and colleagues.” She went on to say, “Who needs 20/20 when you have 20/15!” Congrats to the outstanding class of 2015!

Class of 2015 Hooding and Diplomas

Before commencement concluded with the conferring of hoods and diplomas, President Scott named the numerous students who served on the Student Council, as well as those who received clinical, personal achievement, academic, and scholarship awards at New England College of Optometry, giving each student a chance to stand and be noted. Faculty awards, determined by the students who have learned from them, were given to Dr. William Sleight, OD ’82, and Dr. Mark O’Donoghue, OD ’82. Dr. Barry Fisch, Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs then presented the Masters Degree candidates followed by the Doctoral candidates. This was followed by the conferring of hoods and diplomas to the graduating class. William Sleight, OD ’82 and Elena Biffi, MSc, OD ’11 hooded the candidates while Student Council Vice President Cayla Bergstrom, Class of 2017 assisted President Scott in conferring the degrees. The ceremony was followed by a recessional and light reception for the graduates and their families.

Alumni From the Class of 1955 and 1965


2015 Honorary Degrees and Presidential Medal Recipients with President Scott


The New England College of Optometry Graduating Class of 2015

Class of 2015