It is with sadness that Salus University announces the passing of Harry Kaplan, OD ‘49, FAAO, of Moorestown, N.J., a nationally recognized contact lens specialist and longtime faculty member who served the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) for 52 years. He passed away Monday, May 4, 2020, due to complications associated with COVID-19, at the age of 95.

Harry KaplanIn addition to teaching and owning his own practice in Philadelphia, from 1949 to his appointment as a faculty member in 1964, Dr. Kaplan was a visiting lecturer at PCO, and a special lecturer on contact lenses to PCO fourth-year students beginning in 1959. He was also a researcher and investigator for a number of corporations over the years and very active in raising funds to push through much needed legislation for optometry.

A font of institutional historical knowledge and a source of wonderful stories, Dr. Kaplan was a staunch proponent of optometry, PCO and Salus University. He advised, mentored and taught countless students over the years, and to see him with former students and colleagues at reunions was to see how much he meant to everyone.

Dr. Kaplan traveled with the majority of the Salus PCO presidents — he has known all six — in order to recruit donations from alumni and other businesses to advance the mission.

One of those six presidents, Thomas Lewis, OD ‘70, PhD, FAAO, president of PCO from 1989 to 2008 and then of Salus University from 2008 to 2013, enjoyed a unique relationship with Dr. Kaplan.

Harry KaplanThe two first met in 1968, when Dr. Lewis was a student at PCO and Dr. Kaplan taught a contact lens course in a VFW center adjacent to the Oak Lane campus, because the faculty wouldn’t permit Dr. Kaplan to lecture on campus. At the time, Dr. Kaplan was a private practitioner on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia.

When Dr. Lewis joined the PCO faculty in 1972, he and Dr. Kaplan became colleagues. Soon thereafter, Dr. Kaplan became Dr. Lewis’ optometrist, taking care of his contact lens needs.

In 1989, when Dr. Lewis became vice president and dean of PCO, Dr. Kaplan reported to Dr. Lewis as a faculty member.

“During my presidency, he played an essential role, not only with the Bennett Center for Professional and Practice Development, but also as a fundraiser with alumni,” said Dr. Lewis.

But according to Dr. Lewis, the most important relationship Dr. Kaplan had with him was as a friend and counselor.

“He was always supportive of me. No one gave as much to optometry in every way than Harry; financially, politically and with personal commitment and dedication,” said Dr. Lewis. “Dr. Harry Kaplan was a critical and influential contributor to the survival, growth and evolution of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. I will always be indebted to him for his lifetime of dedication and service to PCO and our profession.” 

Harry KaplanIn 1985, Dr. Kaplan established a PCO fundraising event that continues today. The annual “I” Care Raffle — renamed to “Salus Cares Raffle” — which supports the University’s educational and clinical programs, including The Eye Institute (TEI)Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) and Speech-Language Institute (SLI), allowing Salus to provide necessary treatment to patients in need, while giving Salus students essential educational experiences. This year’s raffle, which will be June 12, marks the 35th anniversary of the event that has raised nearly $850,000. 

He has been the recipient of many awards, a member of many professional memberships and held many offices over the duration of his career. He is a former president of: Philadelphia County Optometric Society; Pennsylvania Optometric Association; PCO Alumni Association and Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Optometry. He received the Albert Fitch Alumnus of the Year Award in 1976, the PCO President’s Medal at the College’s 75th anniversary celebration in 1995, and the Alumni Association’s Special Recognition Award in 2013. Dr. Kaplan also served on the PCO Board of Trustees from 1963-1964 and again from 1982-1983.

A bench on campus was also dedicated in his name at his retirement ceremony in 2016.

Harry KaplanIn addition, as part of the University’s overall endowment, the Harry Kaplan Scholarship, awarded to optometry students on the basis of academic performance and financial need, was established in September 1999. If you would like to make a gift in memory of Dr. Kaplan, you can donate online here or you can forward your gift to the Office of Institutional Advancement, Salus University, 8360 Old York Road, Elkins Park, Pa., 19027.

“Here at Salus, we take seriously the idea of honoring the life and legacy of those on whose shoulders we stand,” said Jacqueline Patterson, MPA, vice president of Institutional Advancement and Community Relations. “Harry was passionate about Salus PCO and cared deeply about creating opportunities for students.”

Dr. Kaplan, is survived by his wife Mae; four children, Mojave Kaplan, Sandy Kaplan, P'nina Kaplan and David Kaplan; three grandchildren, Josh (Melanie), Uriah (Tanya), Atira and Luke; and three great-grandchildren, Skyller, Aniko and Aminu.