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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.

1990 Light and Laser Inst.


The Hafter Family Light and Laser Institute is established and the College acquires an Excimer Laser.


The Special Populations Assessment and Rehabilitation Center, as well as the right to confer the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree are established.


The Department of Graduate Studies establishes the Master of Science degree and certificate program in Orientation and Mobility.


The Center for International Studies is created at PCO.


The Department of Graduate Studies establishes the Master of Science degree and certificate program in Rehabilitation Teaching.

1995 MsC


PCO is the first optometry college to graduate a Master of Science in Clinical Optometry program composed solely of international practitioners. Today, nearly 1,000 international practitioners are alumni.



Pennsylvania enacts legislation allowing optometrists to use therapeutic pharmaceutical agents. PCO becomes the administrative headquarters of the World Council of Optometry and Dr. Anthony Di Stefano ‘73 becomes its Executive Director.

More About Dr. Di Stefano


The College sets its sights on the 21st century. In 1995 a campus-wide functional space analysis is completed. Critical space limitations are identified at the Oak Lane Campus, including classroom and lab capacity, the library, and parking. After studying several alternatives, a solution is found: The Breyer Office Park in Elkins Park, Pa. The new campus is purchased with a $13.5 million dollar loan and $3.5 million from PCO. The bank requires PCO to raise $1 million before it releases $3 million to be used for renovations. PCO alums answer the call and $1 million is raised in a year. Renovations start in 1997.

History of the Elkins Park Campus


The College moves to an 11.5 acre main campus in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park – the campus is located less than three and a half miles from The Eye Institute, which remains as the Oak Lane campus today. With the assistance of State Representative (now U.S. representative) Dwight Evans, the College sells the academic and administrative buildings to the Community College of Philadelphia.