Thank You, Dr. Bill Monaco
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Thank You, Dr. Bill Monaco

Dr. Bill MonacoOn June 30, William Monaco, OD, PhD, FAAO, will retire as associate dean for Graduate Programs in Biomedicine and associate director for Public Health programs. He first came to PCO in 1986 as an adjunct at the request of Dr. Anthony F. Di Stefano, who was then assistant dean of Academic Development.

A US Navy clinical optometrist at the time, Dr. Monaco would take personal leave to come to the Oak Lane campus periodically from Portsmouth, Virginia, teaching for a week and staying in the “PCO hotel” – a dorm that had seen much better days by 1986. In addition, he taught for many years in the PCO international Master of Clinical Optometry (MSCO) degree program.

In 1992, as dean of Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO), Dr. Monaco was responsible for the creation of the College’s Rural Eye program, a collaboration with the Cherokee Nation that established eye care in four outlying tribal health clinics to help combat the high incidence of diabetes found amongst Native Americans. Bill Monaco says it was this public health project that brought home to him that the key to effective public health is sustainability.

Dr. Monaco & Dr. Aldebasi in Saudi Arabia, April 2015
Dr. Monaco & Dr. Aldebasi in Saudi Arabia, April 2015

Dr. Di Stefano expands on that commitment to public health and adds, “One of the key enduring values and life experiences that has shaped Bill’s public health world view has been his many years of being the only optometrist in Delaware who provided vision and eye care to thousands of nursing home patients in the State.”

In 2008, Dr. Monaco served as a special assistant for program development to then vice president of Academic Affairs, Dr. Di Stefano, who says, “One of his most significant accomplishments was building the programmatic and technology infrastructure of the University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program.”

Drs. Monaco and Di StefanoBuilding the program involved recruiting faculty, role modeling online education strategies for students and faculty, and developing strategic partnerships with optometric professional organizations around the world, according to Dr. Di Stefano. Dr. Monaco also created unique MPH scholarship programs with the African Council of Optometry (AFCO) and the Armed Forces Optometric

Society (AFOS). “Over the past eight years he has been the backbone of the program, playing a unique leadership role in the MPH program development and growth,” says Dr. Di Stefano.

After Dr. Pierette Dayhaw-Barker retired in 2014 as founding dean of Graduate Programs in Biomedicine, Dr. Monaco became associate dean of that program. Dr. Di Stefano recounts that Bill Monaco was there to move the University’s first PhD program forward and credits his administrative strength in program development, distance learning, and graduate education. “Bill stepped in and has nurtured the continuing development of graduate research training,” he notes. “Facing the many challenges of a new program, Bill’s dedication and perseverance has brought the program through a crucial phase of its development,” he adds.

Drs. Monaco, Mittelman and Di Stefano with MPH graduates, October 2015
Drs. Monaco, Mittelman and Di Stefano with MPH graduates, October 2015

After June 30, Bill Monaco will continue teaching public health courses and mentoring PhD students. He feels he still has the “fire in the belly” and the motivation. “I feel as though I am still at the top of my game,” he says. After thirty-five years of teaching, his pride in his students still runs strong. It is a testament to his modesty that it would never occur to him that their accomplishments are in large part due to his teaching and mentoring. Bill Monaco has never sought the limelight and has always put the needs of his programs, students and faculty first.

When pinned down to answer how he feels about what he has accomplished all these years, he does speak of “transitional reliability” – the creation of something that carries across borders, cultures, age groups and countries. He emphasizes the point that training his MPH and PhD students is paramount so that they in turn can bring change to their worlds and, if pressed, Bill concedes that he had something to do with it.

Dr. Bill Monaco, USN Retired, Veterans DayDr. Monaco enthuses about a recent Public Health class of thirty students composed of dual-degree optometry students, senior optometrists and military personnel spread over seven countries. He grins when he speaks of how his far-flung students “talk to one another about the courses and transfer information,” – again never seeming to realize it’s the teacher who inspires enthusiasm among the students.

His friend and colleague, Dr. Tony Di Stefano says, “Bill has devoted himself to the continued growth of both the MPH and PhD programs. He has developed innovative interdepartmental courses across both ... Bill leaves a legacy of professionalism, dedication to his students, innovation in program design and distance learning, and an enduring love for the aging population.”

Thank you, Bill, for your many years of dedication and commitment – to your country, your patients, your students and faculty, and to Salus and PCO. With your love of teaching, you have brought so much to so many – and your friends and colleagues wish you continued success!