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Two Professorships Added to UHCO

Posted On: 07/29/2016

Brien A. Holden Professorship Endowment:

Jan Bergmanson OD, PhD, FAAO
, received his optometric training and PhD at the City University, London, UK and a Doctor of Optometry degree from Pennsylvania College of Optometry (Salus University). Currently, Bergmanson is Professor of Optometry at the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO), where he is the founding Director of the Texas Eye Research and Technology Center (TERTC). With over 150 clinical and scientific articles, 8 chapters and 1 textbook published, Bergmanson is a leader within the optometric community. Bergmanson has received numerous accolades over his career including a lifetime honorary member of the Swedish and Dutch Optometric Associations and the Swedish Contact Lens Association and Foundation Fellow of the College of Optometrists in United Kingdom and since 2013 received Life Fellowship.
A passionate humanitarian with global view, Professor Brien Holden (1942 - 2015), served as CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Professor at the School of Optometry at UNSW Australia. His life’s work was service…to the scientific community, to the health care community and to individuals in need of vision care regardless of their geographic location or their financial limitations. He was a leading champion for research and the development of new and better vision care technology and products. He and his partners helped establish a development agenda targeting uncorrected refractive error – the leading and yet most easily avoidable cause of vision loss. Dr. Holden received numerous accolades during his career but, seeing someone being fitted with glasses for the first time, eyes wide in wonderment as they saw their loved one’s faces clearly in that first moment was priceless and the catalyst that drove him in all that he did.
 Benedict-Pitts Professorship Endowment:

Vallabh Das, PhD, received his undergraduate degree from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India in 1992. Upon graduation, Das moved to the United States for graduate studies and completed MS and PhD degrees in 1998 in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. He worked under the mentorship of Dr. John Leigh, examining the interactions between visual-oculomotor and vestibular systems. He did post-doctoral work at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University with Dr. Michael Mustari from 1999 to 2002 and was later appointed to faculty in 2002. Das received an independent investigator award from the National Institutes of Health in 2004 to study neural circuits mediating binocular coordination of eye movements in the strabismic monkey, where he has maintained continued funding. Das joined the faculty at UHCO in 2009, and continues his NIH research.
Bill C. Benedict (1925 - 2014), was an entrepreneur and influential leader who revolutionized the eyewear industry and optical laboratory business. With a focus on precision, his attention to detail, commitment to quality and desire for excellence, served as hallmarks of his business ventures. A consummate problem solver, he founded international Optical, which he later merged with Dr. Stanley Pearle to become Opticks and ultimately Pearle Vision. Bill co-founded Omega Optical, Delta Fashion Optical, Benedict Optical Laboratories and Legends 4.0 Optics Lab. Honours include the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Dallas Connection, the Optical Legends Lifetime Achievement Award and Visionary of The Optical Pioneers sponsored by the Optical Laboratories Association. Bill’s philosophy was “Never tell a person how bad they are, tell them how good they can be” and” cheer them on and keep score.”
Donald Graves Pitts (1927 - 2012), a long time faculty member and administrator at UHCO. In his early years, Pitts served his county in the Army Air Corps and later in the Air Force during the Korean War. While in the Air Force, Don completed his Master's and PHD degrees. After retiring from the Air Force in 1969, the Pitts family moved to Houston, Texas where he became a professor of Physiological Optics and Optometry, and Associate Dean for UHCO. His research on the effects of UV radiation on the eye, lead him to lecture in places such as Canada, London, South Africa, Denmark and Sweden. A few of his honors and awards include post-doctorate fellow from the National Academy of Sciences and Air Force Systems Command, Glen A. Fry Award and medal, Foley House Award, Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, George H. Giles Memorial Lecture and Professor Emeritus, Optometry and Visual Science from the University of Houston.
Endowed professorships bestow a great honor to those who have served the profession in the generations before us and allow Colleges to recognize the talent of our faculty. Professorships are important for retaining productive faculty essential for maintaining critical facilities for teaching, research, and clinical care. Congratulations to both Drs. Bergmanson and Das on their professorships.