By: Dr. Morris Berman '70 Posted On: 11/17/2020
I was born in Pretoria, South Africa. After graduating from High School, I decided to study optometry, following in the footsteps of my father who ran a successful practice. At the time, the optometry school in Johannesburg offered the only program on the continent of Africa. With a class size of 13 students, we collaborated and developed close friendships, and after graduation, three classmates and I went on to attend a course at the London Refraction Hospital, followed by a study opportunity for foreign optometrists at the Optometric Center of New York. This six month "residency" in 1969, provided an outstanding educational experience, leading to application for the OD program at the University of Houston, College of Optometry.
Dr. Chester Pheiffer was the Dean, and the College was housed in a modest facility on campus. Nonetheless, the College afforded us with the invaluable opportunity to expand our education and clinical skills. This experience provided me with the knowledge and confidence needed for clinical practice. Two years later, I returned to the University of Houston to enroll in the fledgling graduate program in basic clinical research, under the tutelage of Dr. Don Pitts, Chair of the Graduate Program. His military background and style of leadership certainly kept his four grad students on their toes. One member of this foursome, Dr. Earl Smith, later served with distinction as the Dean at the College of Optometry.
Armed with the newly minted MS degree in Physiological Optics, I was hired as an instructor at College of Optometry, but left in 1974, to become an Assistant Professor at the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO). My education, from the University of Houston, provided a foundation to develop teaching and research skills. Later, I added administrative responsibilities as Assistant Dean charged with curriculum development and establishing residency programs at ICO. In 1985, I had the good fortune to be appointed as Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs at the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) in Fullerton, CA and enjoyed serving in that capacity for 28 years. Prior to retiring from SCCO in 2016, I served for two years as Provost for the newly established Marshall B Ketchum University. In August 2016, I joined the MCPHS School of Optometry in Worcester, MA as Dean, working to get this new school fully accredited, which our team proudly accomplished. Today, I am still involved with the profession, part-time at the New England College of Optometry, and serving on committees in national optometry organizations.
My optometric pathway has included several turns along the way, and each stop enabled me to work with outstanding people and learn from them. None of this would have been possible without the exceptional educational experience I gained at the UH College of Optometry. I feel so proud to say I am an alumnus!
Mostly, my days in Houston were memorable because of the people at the University. There were friends from home, Dennis Levi and Phil Kruger, and new friends and classmates including George Paine and Howard Hooker. There were colleagues and mentors like Ron Harwerth, Tony Cullen, Sami El Hage, Steve Cool, Troy Fannin, and Nelson Reber. Playing on the U of H soccer team, we travelled the state by bus to play in Austin, College Station, Brownsville, and other college towns. It was a team mostly comprised of foreign students from South America, and so it also served as a social and cultural introduction to American society.