Posted On: 03/06/2018
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I want to take this opportunity to personally let you know that last week I announced to the UHCO faculty that I will step down as UHCO’s Dean, effective the end of this academic year.
You have heard me say many times that being Dean is the best job that I’ve ever had. While that is still true, I have a few years remaining on my grant and it is time for me to step aside so that I can devote more time to my research. It’s also time for a new Dean to come in and spur greater growth for the College. Historically, with each new Dean, the College has grown and flourished, building on the foundation from the prior administration. I will continue to serve as Dean as the University completes a search and hires my successor, a process that could take up to a year. There will be continuity during this transition and the College will continue to move forward so our momentum is not lost.
With your partnership, we established the Molly and Doug Barnes Vision Institute housing the Brien Holden Vision Institute Classrooms and Learning Commons, the TSO Alumni Center, the Vision Source Surgery Center, and Essilor Optical Services, not to mention all the individually named rooms. We transformed our philanthropy efforts and recently accomplished our goal of securing 100 endowed scholarships and seven endowed professorships, thanks to the generosity of our alumni, friends, industry partners and you. The Foundation for Education and Research in Vision (FERV) tripled its investments, hitting $6 million in 2017, as total endowments at UHCO touched $18.2 million.
None of these achievements would have been possible without the dedication, time, talent and resources of so many individuals committed to our mission of becoming the premiere optometric teaching and research institution on the planet. It has been my privilege to work alongside you during my tenure as Dean, and an honor to have benefitted from your wisdom, insights and above all, your friendship.
My entire career has been at UHCO. I earned my OD in 1972 and PhD in 1978 and immediately joined the faculty (actually it was the only job offer I had). I have served as the Chair of the Basic Sciences Department (1990), the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research (2001), the Dean of the College (2003), the Interim Chief Health Officer of UH (2013) and returned to the Deanship in 2015. I remember the old barracks, the move into the JDA Building, and our current expansion into the Health 1 Building five years ago. Just as our facilities have changed, so has the advancement of technology, the scope of practice nationally and the advances in research impacting the ways in which patients are diagnosed and care managed.
On the research side, I have remained an active member of the vision science community, and am a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, an ARVO Fellow (inaugural class), a past President of the American Optometric Foundation (2002), a past President of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (2010), a past Member and Chair of NIH NEI’s Central Visual Processing Study Section (1998-2003), a past member of NIH’s National Advisory Eye Council (2005-2008), and currently serves as a Director on the Boards of the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research.
I am telling you these things not because I want to list accolades, but rather to demonstrate my commitment to UHCO, Texas Optometry, the vision sciences and the profession as a whole, both on the clinical and research sides. As a result, I have had a front row seat as a student, teaching assistant, faculty member, associate dean and as Dean. It has been a great ride and one I am grateful to have been a part of. Given UHCO has been my home for 50 years since setting foot on campus as a student, my decision to step down was not one taken lightly.
Rest assured I will continue to work to advance the College during the search for the next Dean, and well beyond as I transition back to the faculty. Thank you for all you have done, and continue to do on behalf of UHCO. You represent us well and serve as role models for optometry’s next generation. I know you will provide valuable guidance for the next Dean just as you have helped me.
With deep appreciation…..all the best.
Earl L. Smith III, O.D., Ph.D.
University of Houston
College of Optometry
505 J. Davis Armistead Building, Room 2103
4901 Calhoun Road
Houston, Texas 77204-2020