After all was said and done, the jury is in: it was indeed the party of the century.
The University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) Centennial Gala weekend celebrations wrapped up at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 28 with an elegant dance-club feel in the Grand Ballroom inside the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing. Overlooking the Delaware River, it appeared as though guests were dancing on water.
Starting on Friday night, 35 Presidential Medals of Honor
were bestowed upon those who have made significant impacts on both the institution and their professions. The 35 new awardees joined 77 other prominent individuals who have previously won the Presidential Medal of Honor, 75 of which were given out during the College’s 75th Anniversary in 1995.
The Centennial Awards Ceremony was held at the Science History Institute in downtown Philadelphia - a fitting venue to honor those who continue to make great strides in the profession of optometry, as well as other health science professions, now taught at as Salus University.
As families and close friends looked on, 25 Pennsylvania College of Optometry medal recipients received their awards from President Michael H. Mittelman, OD ‘80, MPH, FAAO, FACHE.
“All of the individuals honored have received more accolades than we can count for being trailblazers in optometry and their individual respective professions and communities,” said Dr. Mittelman.
Among the recipients were current and former faculty, alumni, and board members.
One of the current faculty members to receive the honor was G. Richard Bennett, MS, OD ‘79, Resident ‘80, FAAO, FNAP, PCO professor and director of the Glaucoma Service at The Eye Institute. “I was humbled and honored by the award,” he said. “Knowing that a hundred Presidential Medal Awards were given out over the last hundred years, it’s very humbling and I feel very honored. The next hundred years, when you think of where we came from - in 1919, we were putting glasses in the back of jewelry stores and today we are doing laser surgery - so a hundred years from now, just imagine.”
Former faculty member, Felix M. Barker II, OD, MS, FAAO, had similar sentiments and felt honored to receive PCO’s Presidential Medal of Honor. “I spent 30 years here [at PCO] and came at a time when the College was in a real transition - with the opening of The Eye Institute (TEI), the hiring of a lot of new faculty, a movement to a stronger renewed program, and the opening of the scope of practice,” he said. “All of that happened here and I had something to do with it. It pleases me a lot to have this recognition because of that participation. This was a nice capstone to the process, so thank you very much to all of you.”
“Winning an award is just an amazing experience,” said Marla Moon, OD ‘82, Resident ‘83, FAAO. “To be able to share this with previous colleagues and previous mentors is just an amazing experience. Being back at the College, it’s amazing how much growth has happened since I left here, not only in the facilities, but also in the programs as well.”
Read full biographies of all of the Presidential Medals of Honor recipients here.
Ten recipients received the first-ever Salus University Presidential Medals of Honor, to also commemorate the 10th anniversary of the University, which was established on July 1, 2008 . Those awarded have played a significant role in the institution’s expansion in health science program offerings or in their professions.
“It was an honor to work at this institution,” said Pierrette Dayhaw-Barker, PhD. “It’s an honor because of all the people, their contribution, their warmth, and their dedication to education. It has been a real pleasure to have spent so many years here and I wish the institution the very best. I know it will continue to grow and it will hold a very strong reputation.” Dr. Dayhaw-Barker, received one of the Salus University Presidential Medals after serving both PCO and Salus for more than 35 years teaching within the Optometry, Audiology, and Physician Assistant Studies programs in which she played an instrumental role in both the development of Curriculum 2000, a major innovation to the optometry curriculum implemented in 2001; and in launching the University’s PhD in Biomedicine program.
Of the 35 total Presidential Medals, two were given posthumously - Brien Holden, PhD for his contributions that extended across research, education, public health and social enterprise and to George Shepard Osborne, PhD, DDS who established the PCO School of Audiology - now the Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) - in 2000. He first created AuD online, a robust and comprehensive program designed specifically as a bridge for licensed and practicing audiologists and it was the second largest program in the country.
Dr. Osborne’s son, Brian Osborne, and granddaughter received the Salus Presidential Medal of Honor in his memory. “It’s incredibly meaningful to our family,” he said. “My sister and I really saw our father dedicate himself to not only the highest standards of healthcare education and audiology, but really profoundly to a service mission and when he was able to design a program that merged both high research standards as well as practice and dedication to the field we saw a culmination of his life’s work. He looked at this as a labor of love and a way to give back. Another thing that is meaningful to us is to talk to others who were really engaged in his professional life.”
During the same evening, five Alumni Association Awards
were also presented. Each year, the University’s Alumni Association recognizes the professional contributions and achievements of graduates and friends of the institution. Awardees are nominated by alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of Salus and its Colleges. .
The evening was also a great reunion for alumni and faculty who enjoyed seeing one another, after many years for some.
View Awards Ceremony Photos
Festivities continued the following day and night. At the Elkins Park Campus, there was a free Continuing Education (CE) course in the morning titled 100 Years of Eyecare: Practicing in the Future, presented by James Deom, OD ’14 and Thomas Kislan, OD ’96, and was sponsored by PRN Physician Recommended Nutriceuticals.
Open Houses occurred at both the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) and Speech-Language Institute (SLI); and tours also took guests to The Eye Institute (TEI) in Oak Lane.
The evening festivities of the Centennial Gala started at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing in the Admiral’s Quarters for a VIP reception. Several of the Presidential Medal of Honor recipients were in attendance.
By 6:30 p.m., all guests mingled during the cocktail hour among friends, faculty, current residents, and sponsors and also had a chance to go back in time browsing yearbooks and a history display of PCO and Salus. Benjamin Franklin, played by a historical reenactor, walked among the crowd as a surprise guest. One of Franklin’s many talents was inventing bifocal glasses, so it was fitting that he attended the Centennial Gala for PCO.
Held in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton with exquisite views of the Delaware River, NBC10 anchor and reporters, Rosemary Connors, kicked off the evening’s program as both co-host and emcee. Dr. Mittelman and Melissa Trego, OD ‘04, PhD, PCO dean, also co-hosted the evening. During the program, Lorraine Lombardi, PhD, professor emerita, recognized those who previously won President Medals of Honor during the 75th Anniversary. One of those, the eldest in attendance, was Freda Sattel, OD ’43. When specially recognized, she received a standing ovation from the entire room.
There was also an alumni reunion toast by David W. Friess, OD ‘02, FAAO, Alumni Association president, especially to the class years ending in “fours” and “nines.”
One of the main goals of the evening in addition to the biggest celebration in a hundred years was raising the necessary funds for scholarships for Salus students. Rosemary Connors interviewed Brooke Jamgochian ‘20AUD and Katherine Boas ‘19OD, both of whom are scholarship recipients. After the interviews, the room was a-buzz with excitement as emcee for the pledge drive, Kate Braemer, coordinator, Alumni Relations and Special Events ran across the room to acknowledge those pledging to help reach the goal of $40,000 - and eventually surpassing it.
The evening concluded with the public announcement of the Centennial Campaign from Dr. Mittelman - in which funds raised will impact and influence the future of healthcare delivery, education, and professional practice; and a fun Heads and Tails Raffle Game that encouraged attendees who participated for a chance to win some money. The winner was Margaret Reynard, patient accounts manager at The Eye Institute.
There was plenty of dancing to a first-class live band - Monte Carlo - and a very popular photo booth with props.
After the dinner program ended, more than 150 students enjoyed the Essilor Luxottica After Party which started at 9:30 p.m. and went until 12:30 a.m., with a DJ.
It truly was a weekend to remember the past century, cherish the present, and a great start to the next century.
View Centennial Gala Photos