Gilda Coppola Crozier, OD ‘43, FAAO, a trailblazer, innovator and teacher extraordinaire at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), passed away Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, at the age of 99.

Dr. Crozier, wife of George E. Crozier, OD ‘49 - who she met at PCO and taught 
Crozier Familyupon his return from military service and who would later become associate dean of Academic Affairs and leave a lasting mark on PCO – began her academic career as a clinical instructor at the College before joining the faculty in the field of anatomy in 1945. Her father-in-law was John E. Crozier, OD, FAAO, a founding member of PCO, and her brother-in-law was John J. Crozier, OD '48, FAAO, former vice president and dean of Student Affairs.

Over the years, she taught ocular anatomy, micro anatomy and vertebrate embryology. Dr. Crozier developed and introduced a number of courses, including normal and abnormal development of the eye and ocular biology. Along with Dr. Onofrey “Rybie” Rybochok and Harold Simmerman, OD ’30, FAAO, Dr. Crozier was also responsible for changing the curriculum and introducing neuroanatomy at PCO, which continued thanks in part of the work of Dr. Lorraine Lombardi, professor emerita.

“For those of us who had the privilege of being one of Dr. Crozier’s students, we will remember her as being incredibly intelligent, appropriately demanding, innovative, kind and very approachable,” said Salus president Michael H. Mittelman, OD '80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE. “She, along with her husband Dr. George Crozier and his brother Dr. John Crozier, formed the backbone that helped to propel PCO to the forefront of optometric education.”

Young Gilda CrozierDr. Mittelman wasn’t the only future University president that Dr. Crozier taught. When Thomas Lewis, OD '70, PhD, FAAO, arrived at PCO in 1966, both George and Gilda Crozier were among his teachers.

“She taught in a way that didn’t make you feel intimidated. She was very caring and understanding, yet at the same time, she demanded that you learn the material,” said Dr. Lewis, who would go on to be president of PCO and later Salus University from 1989 to 2013 and who is now president emeritus.

When Dr. Lewis returned to PCO in 1975 after graduation, he became department chair and worked closely with Dr. Crozier. Dr. Lewis and his wife Harriet became close friends of George and Gilda Crozier and the couples sometimes vacationed together.

Gilda and Dr. Lewis“She was almost like a second mother to me. And, George was maybe my closest friend at the time he passed away (in 1988),” said Dr. Lewis. “Gilda was just a special person. They often called her ‘Saint Gilda’ because she was so kind and considerate to everybody. I never met anybody who would have a bad thing to say about her.”

Dr. Crozier co-chaired the revision and integration of all bioscience courses for first-and second-year PCO students, and in 1971, was appointed to the National Institutes of Health, Bureau of Health, Education and Welfare, serving until 1975. 

Her accolades were many. She was named Optometrist of the Year by the Pennsylvania Optometric Association and was recognized by the Pennsylvania Academy for the Profession of Teaching. She was a consultant for the National Board of Examiners in Optometry from 1970 to 1978 and in 1982, was honored as PCO’s Alumni Association’s Albert Fitch Memorial Alumna of the Year. Dr. Crozier was awarded PCO President’s Medal in 1995, and in 2003, she received the Alumni Association’s Special Recognition Award.

Gilda and GeorgeDr. Crozier retired in 1987 to help care for her husband, and after his death in 1988, she was invited to return to PCO in 1989 as professor emeritus, serving as a consultant for the ocular biology course. 

She was honored again, along with other members of the Crozier family, when PCO dedicated the former “B” building in the family’s honor. Crozier Hall honored the countless contributions of Dr. Crozier and three generations of the Crozier family.

Dr. Lewis believes Dr. Crozier’s contributions to the Crozier family legacy at PCO/Salus were most prevalent in the classroom.

“She was the educational piece, the academic piece,” he said. “Her whole professional life was dedicated to education and to the optometry program at PCO.” 

Crozier FamilyDr. Crozier is survived by her daughter, Georgia Crozier, OD ‘84, MS ‘87, and son-in-law John J. Fitzgerald III, DO, FACOG, associate director of the University’s Physician Assistant Studies program; and three granddaughters, Catena Crozier-Fitzgerald, OD ’14 (Christopher Brightbill, OD '14), Francesca Crozier-Fitzgerald, MA, MEd ’19 (Andrea Coiro) and Giovanna Crozier-Fitzgerald.

Relatives and friends are invited to call from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 259 Forest Ave., Ambler, Pennsylvania, 19002. Funeral mass follows at 11 a.m.

The family is asking for contributions to be made to the Crozier Memorial Fund at Salus University.