Focused on Excellence in Optometric Education and Vision Research

Memories of Mote

Jim Noe remembers Dr. Herb Mote
Dr. Mote sitting at his desk talking to someone

July 1, 1968 was a significant date for Ohio State Optometry. It was the day that ushered in the beginning of our college status. The pre-existing School of Optometry, hidden since 1912 under the College of Arts and Sciences, was finally elevated to full college status and authorized to award the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree to its graduates.

That date also happened to be the first day of my 16-year career as College Secretary and Assistant to the Dean. I was overwhelmed. I had served for several years as a high school counselor in Cincinnati and was entering higher education administration for the first time.

Fortunately for me, the first faculty person to whom I was introduced that July morning was a tall, lanky gentleman sporting a wrinkled, white lab coat by the name of Herbert G. Mote (BS’35, MS’38) or just Herb as he was known. He greeted me with a warm smile and firm handshake and invited me to join him for a cup of coffee.

Dr. Mote roamed the college halls and clinic with his trusty retinoscope jutting out of his pocket. His jaunty gait bounced him back and forth between the College Office and the Optometry Clinic where he assisted most days in teaching students who were completing their patient optometric examinations. 

He took me under his wing and vowed to educate me about his beloved profession. I soon learned his passions – his wife, Elizabeth, a microbiology faculty member, followed in close order by the optometric profession and optometry students. Dr. Mote had been with the college since the early ‘50s and was responsible for many of the administrative duties I had been assigned. After discovering this, I was greatly relieved by his eagerness and enthusiasm to mentor me on the various functions I was to perform.

For the next several months and years, Dr. Mote and I became close friends and colleagues. He introduced me to most of the students and faculty. He put me in contact with the staff in central administration who would shepherd me through learning the various university processes necessary to facilitate our students’ flow through our four-year curriculum. Because we shared the vices of coffee and cigarette smoking, we followed those habits into the student lounge, the hospital cafeteria, or walks around the campus. 

The subject of all our hours of conversation was always the same. Dr. Mote was insistent on infusing me with a deep understanding and appreciation for his profession.
Jim Noe

He took me to optometry meetings and arranged visits to practicing optometrists throughout the state whom he considered to be leaders in the profession and a fertile source of future students. He encouraged me to liaise with other institutions in the state to help them create pre-optometry curriculums. He challenged me to increase our optometry applicant pool’s numbers by working with advisors and counselors in University College and the College of Arts & Sciences.

1935 Epsilon Psi Epsilon group photo
1935 Epsilon Psi Epsilon group photo, courtesy of Makio (The Ohio State University’s yearbook). In this historic record, only last names were provided. Back row: Shirey, Wolfe, Howe, Rieckhoff, Garrison, Marsch. Middle row: Stark, Paradzinski, Mote, Donog

Dr. Mote and his wife took home and housed an occasional new optometry student whose apartment contract had not been honored. He would see that students who needed financial assistance were helped. He counseled students having difficulties with their studies or marriages. He even found time to work with many local organizations such as the United Way, Camp Fire Girls, the Columbus Recreation Commission, and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

He encouraged graduates to pursue ethical optometric opportunities either in private practice or associate with those already in practice. He was a personal Rolodex for established optometrists looking for associates and acted as a facilitator to get doctors and graduates together to discuss the possibilities for a professional relationship. He kept track of older optometrists who wanted to sell their practices and put them in touch with students and/or graduates who might be interested in buying them.

Dr. Mote talking with someone in his office
Dr. Mote talking with a colleage in his office

In addition to his college administrative and clinical responsibilities, Dr. Mote was a lifetime member of the Ohio Optometric Association, serving as President from 1948 to 1950. He served as a consultant to the Ohio State Highway Patrol from 1951 to 1969, assisting them with vision-related issues. For his outstanding service to the profession, he was honored by the Ohio Association as Optometrist of the Year in 1973.

Dr. Mote became ill in 1973 and passed away in 1974. He left a deep legacy of a lifetime of service to the profession of optometry and The Ohio State University College of Optometry. He will always be remembered as a father figure by so many of our graduates. I can still see him sitting in my office in Fry Hall, one of his long legs entwined around the other, cigarette positioned on his lips, and his infectious smile directed toward me as he extolled about the great future of the optometric profession. Well, Herb, you were right! And you were a big part of making it great!