Salus, Drexel Sign Ceremonial Merger Agreement
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Salus, Drexel Sign Ceremonial Merger Agreement

Salus University and Drexel University have ceremoniously tied the knot. The two renowned institutions have formalized a merger agreement after approval from the Board of Trustees at each university.

“These are both storied institutions. When I look back at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) and our legacy and Drexel’s legacy, we started in the same way, as single-purpose schools,” said Salus president Michael H. Mittelman, OD ‘80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE. “And, we’ve evolved into world class universities going in a little bit different directions. But here today we’re about to enter into basically what is a marriage, which is going to grow into a university that’s going to do even greater things, not only for this city but for society in general.”

Salus and Drexel officials toastThe signing ceremony, held June 13, 2023, in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery on Drexel's campus, included a large crowd of board members, faculty, staff and students from both universities.

*Pending approval by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and specialized accreditors, the merger will bring together two Philadelphia institutions committed to health sciences education. Salus, founded in 1919 as the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry and based in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, has an enrollment of more than 1,100 students and operates three clinical facilities in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties that provide highly specialized vision, hearing and balance, and speech-language pathology services. The addition of Salus’ graduate degree programs in Optometry, Audiology, Blindness and Low Vision Studies, Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, and Orthotics and Prosthetics, will add new programs to Drexel’s health sciences offerings and expand existing programs such as physician assistant studies.

“As we got to know each other better, we were even more confident that Salus and Drexel were a great fit,” said Drexel president John Fry. “We were convinced that merging our two institutions would create a new university that is greater than the sum of its parts, which already were pretty great on their own.”

Dr. Mittelman and John FryFry added that when Drexel officials started looking into a merger, they found Salus to be a well-run, high-performing, high-impact institution that is completely mission-driven.

“We see outstanding graduate programs and clinical practices,” said Fry. “And, we see in Salus a partner that will strengthen Drexel’s national reputation for preparing future interprofessional practitioners, researchers and leaders across all health sciences.”

Dr. Mittelman pointed out that first and foremost, the merger is going to significantly enhance the student experience for Salus students. For Salus faculty, it offers enhanced development opportunities, research support and access to Drexel’s state-of-the-art facilities. It also protects proceeds of Salus’ and PCO’s endowment.

Student council president Alex Kirn“Salus University has grown and changed a lot over the past few decades,” said Alexander Kirn ‘25OD, president of the Salus student council, who spoke on behalf of the student body. He said the students are looking forward to this opportunity and its possibilities, such as expanded academic programs, new academic offerings and research possibilities and access to the Drexel library, and expanded student services.

“We are hoping as a student body that we will successfully be able to combine our own unique identity with Drexel and the opportunities that will be provided,” said Kirn. “We have our own unique history and we know that Drexel does as well. Seeing them combined is something we are very excited about. When we look back on our education, what we really want to do is to be able to say that we were prepared as well as possible by our institution and that we can still take pride in it.”

The next step in moving the merger forward will be to form an Integration Council comprised of faculty and professional staff from both universities to address how and when academic programs and operational units will become part of Drexel’s structure. The work of the Integration Council will take a year or more, which Dr. Mittelman hopes will be completed by July 2024.

Crowd at ceremony signing