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History of Salus/PCO


Today the University is a diversified, globally recognized, health professions university that offers a wide range of accredited post-graduate and professional degree programs. Currently, the University has more than 1,200 students and more than 14,000 alumni worldwide. 
PCO founder, Dr. Albert Fitch, was considered a visionary by his peers and a revolutionary by others in the healthcare community. His goal in establishing the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry (our original name) as a nonprofit educational institution in 1919 was to create a professional school of optometry comparable to those of medicine and dentistry. His desire was to “obtain a higher standard of proficiency and to enlighten the public mind on the subject and science of optometry and its relationship to the conservation of vision.” That desire to set and maintain a higher standard of education is evident today at Salus University, where the institution continues to break new ground with creative and innovative curricula for all of its degree programs. 
The name Salus University may still be young, however, the history and reputation of our founding institution - the Pennsylvania College of Optometry - is known and respected around the world. Changes in the nation’s healthcare delivery system are significantly altering every facet of our diversified medical and health science professions. Central to the Salus mission is keeping pace with the rapidly expanding healthcare issues, setting national trends and standards and being the leader in providing the nation’s top health science, education and rehabilitation professionals.



The new academic buildings at the Oak Lane Campus, Fitch and Crozier Halls are completed with the assistance of grants and loans from Federal and state funds.



Rhode Island becomes the first state to enact legislation allowing optometrists to use diagnostic pharmaceutical agents.

1972 - Norm Wallis


Dr. Norman Wallis is selected as the third College president. Dr. Wallis re-energizes the College with a new curriculum and the building of The Eye Institute, a $5.1 million clinical education and patient care facility. Dr. Wallis also expands the Board of Trustees and implemented the “Full Cost of Education Concept,” establishing agreements with surrounding states to contribute financial support to the cost of the education of their residents—agreements that still exist today.



The new curriculum requires students to complete clinical training not only at the clinical facilities of the College, but also at a clinical practice in the field. Eventually the curriculum requires students to complete multiple externships that offer clinical experiences in varied optometric settings across the country. The second apartment house, Wentka Hall, opens.


PCO receives approval from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to award the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Pennsylvania enacts legislation allowing optometrists to use diagnostic pharmaceutical agents.

1975 Entrance Requirements


Entrance requirements are raised to include three years of pre-optometric college work. The College becomes one of the earliest recipients of a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services for recruitment, retention, and enrichment of minority students, paving the way for minority student representation within PCO and now Salus to grow.


West Virginia becomes the first state to enact legislation allowing optometrists to use therapeutic pharmaceutical agents.

1978 - TEI


The Eye Institute (TEI), PCO’s main clinical facility, opens and is the first comprehensive, inter-disciplinary clinical facility of its kind for both patients and education – it is the first optometric care facility in the nation to use a multidisciplinary approach using optometrists, ophthalmologists, physicians, low vision rehabilitation specialists, students and other healthcare professionals working together for comprehensive vision care services. Post-graduate residency programs for Doctors of Optometry include advanced clinical competencies in primary care, pediatric/binocular vision, vision rehabilitation, contact lenses, ocular disease and refractive eye care. William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center opens at TEI.

A Closer Look: The Eye Institute
1979 0 Wolfberg


Melvin D. Wolfberg, OD ’51 becomes the fourth President of the College, in which he leads the dynamic growth of the College’s research programs. His tenure includes the historic affiliation with Hahnemann University and the establishment of the Irving Bennett Business and Practice Management Center.

Read More about Dr. Wolfberg