2023 Albert Fitch Memorial Alumnus of the Year: Mark Boas, OD ‘86
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2023 Albert Fitch Memorial Alumnus of the Year: Mark Boas, OD ‘86

During his second year at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) in the 1980s, Mark Boas, OD ‘86, was elected class president. He would go on to be class president his third and fourth years as well, and after graduating from PCO, would continue to serve as Alumni Association president (1995-1999), faculty member (2001-2020) and on the Board of Trustees for many years.

He married one of his classmates, Suzanne (Helms) Boas, OD ‘86, and two of the couple’s children, Marie (Boas) Gwinn, OD ‘17, and Katherine Boas, OD ‘19, would follow in their parents’ footsteps and also graduate from PCO at Salus University.

Dr. Boas headshotDr. Boas and his family have had a long and mutually respected relationship with the University for two generations. And, that longtime dedication has yielded another laurel for Dr. Boas as he has been named the 2023 Albert Fitch Memorial Alumnus of the Year.

In the world of optometry, Dr. Albert Fitch is considered an icon. He is a significant fixture in the history of optometry, a visionary for optometry as a career path, and a leader in forming much of its basis as a respected and advocated profession. He is the founder of what was then known as the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry (PSCO), in 1919.

The award is presented to a PCO/Salus alumnus who has distinguished himself/herself through extraordinary service and contributions to the profession of optometry, bringing honor and prestige to the College.

“I understand that Albert Fitch was such an icon of not just PCO but of optometry in general,” said Dr. Boas. “I don’t know of a higher award that I could have been given. So I’m incredibly floored by it and honored by it.”

In 1989, Dr. Boas was elected to the PCO Alumni Association, chaired the reunion/special events committee and the nominating committee (1998-2001), and was a member of the student relations committee. Dr. Boas was the president-elect (1993-1995) and president (1995-1999) of the Alumni Association. He was nominated for the Fitch Alumni of the Year Award by current Alumni Association president, Robert Owens, OD ‘80, FAAO.

From 1998 to 2020, Dr. Boas was a consultant at The Eye Institute (TEI) of Salus University, eventually joining the TEI clinical faculty from 2001 to 2015 and then advancing to assistant professor at the College from 2015 to 2020. He retired from the faculty and as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees in 2020.

During his time on the board, Dr. Boas would chair the Institutional Policy and Curriculum committee and TEI committee, which would eventually change its name to the Health Services committee. Dr. Boas also served the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA) in several capacities, including: president-elect in 2004; president in 2005; as a member of the nominating and evaluating committee from 2006 to 2008; and as chairman of the nominating and evaluating committee from 2008 to 2010.

In 1989, Dr. Boas and his wife would open a private practice together, Boas Vision Associates, in Exton, Pennsylvania. The practice added both daughters after their respective graduations from PCO/Salus, as well as son Robert, who handles billing and works as an optometric assistant. Robert’s girlfriend, Jessica Harsch ‘25OD, is currently an optometry student at PCO/Salus.

“Our daughters watched us and listened to us at the dinner table. So, when they told us that they were interested in going to optometry school, it really did catch us both by surprise,” said Dr. Boas.

He admits, though, that his daughters weren’t exactly crazy about their father also being their preceptor. “I was in the clinic and they both rotated through the pediatric unit, which was where I worked,” said Dr. Boas.

“But I still stuck my nose in where I could and made sure they were doing OK and getting the information they needed. I was very happy that I could get them sort of comfortable there because it’s a stressful situation for any student to see their first patient. I was happy to be there just to support them.”

PCO/Salus means everything to him professionally. “I would not be who I am today without PCO and eventually Salus,” said Dr. Boas. “I’ve been known to say that I’m PCO in my heart and Salus in my brain.

When you’re at PCO and you get educated at PCO and your diploma is from PCO, and then all of a sudden, 10 to 15 years later it’s changing its name, that was a hard pill to swallow for a lot of PCO grads. But not for me, because I understood why. And, I am happy that it evolved that way.”

And, he’s thrilled to be named the Fitch Award recipient.

“When I was at PCO, Albert Fitch was the father of everybody. He was held in such high regard by everyone,” said Dr. Boas. “I know Dr. Fitch’s story, I learned it back then. To receive an award in his name is the highest honor I could get.”