In Memoriam: Dr. Irving Bennett
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In Memoriam: Dr. Irving Bennett

Irving Bennett, OD ‘44, DSC (Hon.) ‘87, FAAO, an internationally renowned authority and publisher in the field of optometric economics and practice management, passed away Sept. 7, 2020, at the age of 97. 

Irving BennettAfter beginning his optometric practice in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, he became active in the community; he served on the Board of Education, the Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club in addition to the Western Pennsylvania Optometric Society and the local chapter of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind.

Dr. Bennett continued to fight for optometry’s bigger role within healthcare and eventually became an internationally renowned authority and published author in optometric economics and practice management as he also founded a publishing company, Advisory Enterprises, dedicated to eye care and practice management. This venture combined both his love of writing and his business and optometric expertise. Under Advisory Enterprises, he founded magazines Optometric Management, Contact Lens Forum, Ophthalmology Management, and Optical Management. He also founded Optifair, an annual exposition of product introductions and continuing education, held several times a year across the United States.

“Dr. Bennett was truly a pioneer of the optometric professions,” said Salus University president Michael Mittelman, OD ‘80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE

“Someone said to me that optometry and the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) would be very different if it wasn’t for Irving Bennett — that’s how monumental his contributions to the optometric profession, optometric education and PCO were.”

Bennett Center boardDr. Mittelman added that during his tenure as president, he had the pleasure of several visits with Dr. Bennett in which they discussed many aspects of not only optometric education but health science education, in general.  

“He was a gracious mentor and friend and really helped me to set my course as I started here in 2013. It was not unusual for me to call Dr. Bennett to ask his sage advice about things affecting optometry and healthcare in general,” said Dr. Mittelman. “Our last discussion was a few months ago where we talked about the potential effects the pandemic is going to have on healthcare delivery across the county and the world. His thoughts and insights were very much aligned with what most of the experts project today, which was not a surprise.” 

Dr. Mittelman, who will miss his visits and discussions, knows the profession along with members of the Salus and PCO community will also miss his wisdom and support. 

Dr. Bennett served on the American Optometric Association (AOA) and was the second-ever editor of the Journal of the American Optometric Association, in addition to being a member of the AOA’s Board of Trustees. In 1973, Dr. Bennett was honored by the AOA as the National Optometrist of the Year. He was also a National Optometric Hall of Fame member and recipient of the prestigious AOA Distinguished Service Award. 

Back at his alma mater, Dr. Bennett was named the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) Alumnus of the Year in 1961, and served on the Board of Trustees from 1977 to 1980. Thanks to Dr. Bennett’s generous support and commitment to educating students and practitioners in the business aspects of the practice of optometry, PCO was able to establish the Irving Bennett Business and Practice Management Center (now Bennett Career Services Center). In 1993, Dr. Bennett was appointed professor of Business and Practice Management at PCO. At PCO’s 71st Commencement, Dr. Bennett received his Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, a special degree to recognize unusual merit, creative leadership, or distinctive accomplishments in scholarship, arts and letters, individual professions or service to mankind of national or international significance.

Dr. Bennett at commencementDr. Bennett was honored in 1995 with the President’s Medal at the University’s 75th Anniversary Gala Celebration for his outstanding contributions to PCO and the field of optometry and vision care.

As the first optometrist in his family, he started an optometric dynasty. His brother, Milton, who was the one who pushed him into the field, followed suit shortly thereafter. Next was his son, Donald, who went on to become an ophthalmologist in Louisville, Kentucky, and practiced ophthalmology the way Dr. Bennett felt it should be practiced, doing only secondary and tertiary care and no primary care. His daughter, Linda, was next, beginning to practice in Belmont, Massachusetts. This was the impetus for a series of articles in Optometric Management that Dr. Bennett penned on practice management titled, “Dear Linda.” The most recent legacy into the optometric field is Linda’s daughter, Rebecca, who joined her mother in practice in 2008.

He met his wife Trude while attending college and the two were married while he served in the army. The couple celebrated 75 years of marriage in July 2020. Dr. Bennett is survived by his wife; his two children, Linda Bennett, OD, and Donald Bennett, OD, MD; four grandchildren, Courtnee Bennett, Rebecca Bennett Maida, OD, Joslyn Overby and Beth Huey; and five great grandchildren.

Here at Salus, we take seriously the idea of honoring the life and legacy of those on whose shoulders we stand. Dr. Bennett was passionate about PCO/Salus and cared deeply about practitioner management. Please consider making a gift in his memory and all proceeds will benefit PCO students.