Notable Alumnus

Jerry Christensen, OD PhD
Class of 1964

Dr. Jerry Christensen, Emeritus Dean and Professor of Optometry, University of Missouri St. Louis College of Optometry

Education: B. Sc. in Optometry, 1964; M. Sc. in Physiological optics, 1966; PhD in Physiological Optics, 1969.

In 1969, after receiving my PhD in Physiological Optics, I took a position as Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts College of Optometry (now New England College of Optometry) in Boston. While in Boston I was appointed Director of the Physiological Optics Tract, Chair of the Student Affairs Committee and the faculty representative to the Board of Trustees. In 1973, I took a position as Assistant Professor at the School of Optometry at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Two years later, I was promoted to Associate Professor and appointed as the School’s first Assistant Dean of Student Affairs. In 1976 I was awarded an American Council on Education Fellowship in Academic Administration. Following this yearlong program—including three months as a special assistant to the President of the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston—I was appointed UAB’s Chairman of the Physiological Optics Department and Director of the Graduate Programs. In 1978, I was appointed a member of the National Advisory Eye Council of the National Institutes of Health, the body that approves funding for all NIH funded vision research. Over these years, I also taught monocular sensory processes, ocular anatomy, ocular optics, ocular motility, and binocular vision.

In 1980, I applied for and was selected for the position of Dean Designate for a potential school of optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis—that is, I was to be dean if the school actually started. Nothing could be done until the school officially came into existence, which it did on June 1, 1980, and I had to hire faculty, ready facilities, and admit students by the start of classes in late August. When I arrived, the school consisted of a desk, a phone and a re-assigned administrative assistant; my first task was to order paper, pens, scissors, and tape. It was hectic, but verything came together, and eventually our first class, thirty-six students, graduated in 1984 and, shortly thereafter, the school became fully accredited. In 1991 I was elected President of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. In 1992, I was appointed to a six-year term on the Council on Optometric Education, the accrediting body for schools and colleges of optometry. I left the deanship in 1995, but remained a Professor of Optometry and Physiological Optics, teaching bioethics, monocular sensory processes, ocular anatomy, and physical optics. In 2001, I became a member of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. I retired in 2007 and a year later was named Dean and Professor Emeritus. However, the title I’m happiest with is Poppy, the name my five grandchildren call me!

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