Focused on Excellence in Optometric Education and Vision Research

Icon: Remembering Dr. Richard Hill

Optometry legend leaves immortal legacy
Dr. and Mrs. Hill
Emeritus Dean Richard Hill with his wife, Lee

Richard Mather Hill, OD, PhD, Emeritus Dean of The Ohio State University College of Optometry, passed away on June 20, 2023 in Columbus. He was 88. Dr. Hill is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Leonora “Lee” Hill, and daughter, Cindi Hill, MD, both of Columbus. Although he did not grow up in Ohio and did not attend Ohio State, he was a “Buckeye by Choice” – and we are all better for it.

Dean Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD, the Glenn A. Fry Professor in Optometry and Physiological Optics, observed that Dr. Hill had a profound influence on her when she first came to Ohio State as an Assistant Professor in 1996. She recalls, “Dr. Hill, having been a UC Berkeley graduate himself, graciously and generously gave me sound advice about navigating the transition to Ohio State from the West Coast. I recall that advice—and implement it—to this day.”

Associate Dean for Research Jeff Walline (OD, MS’98, PhD’02) says, “Dr. Hill was among the first people I met upon matriculation [as a graduate student] at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. He was a force to behold, with eminence in teaching, research, and service. I have nothing but love and respect for his character and diligence. Dr. Hill’s legacy will continue in the strong reputation of The Ohio State University College of Optometry that he helped to build.”

Every serious contact lens expert listened to his every word intently.
Joe Barr (OD’77, MS’79)

Dr. Hill was born in California’s San Francisco Bay Area on December 16, 1934. He earned his OD and PhD degrees from the University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry in 1958 and 1961, respectively. He worked at UC Berkeley as an Assistant Professor of Optometry and Physiological Optics until 1964, when Glenn Fry, PhD, and Fred Hebbard, OD, PhD, recruited him to join the faculty at Ohio State as an Associate Professor of Optometry.

Dr. Hill came to Ohio State as one of the nation’s ascending stars in research on the neurophysiology of the visual system and the physiology of the eye. During Dr. Hill’s distinguished career at Ohio State, he continued to build his research reputation – particularly in the area of contact lenses – as he rose through the academic ranks of Associate Professor from 1964 to 1968; Professor from 1968 to 1995; Associate Dean from 1978 to 1988; and Dean from 1988 to 1995. Throughout his career, he authored more than 500 journal articles, books, monographs, and abstracts. His professional papers, memorabilia and research instruments are now housed in Ohio State’s Medical Heritage Center. A comprehensive list of his publications can be found at The Ohio State University John A. Prior Health Sciences Library and online at

During his tenure as dean, Dr. Hill implemented an ambitious strategic plan that called for improvements in ophthalmic, clinical, and vision sciences. He expanded the scope of the curriculum to include diagnostic and therapeutic drugs and introduced the OD/MS program, which combines the Doctor of Optometry degree with a master’s degree in vision science.

Dr. Hill was the recipient of many awards through his career. For research, he received the Fry Medal in Physiological Optics, the Gold Medal of the British Contact Lens Association, the Ruben Medal of the International Society for Contact Lens Research, the Bell Medal from the Contact Lens Society of Australia, the Herschel Medal of the International Society from Contact Lens Specialists, the Glenn A. Fry Lecture Award from the American Optometric Foundation, and the Charles F. Prentice Award from the American Academy of Optometry, in which he was a Life Fellow. He was president of the International Society for Contact Lens Research (1988-1990), and in 1996 he was designated Optometrist of the Year by the Ohio Optometric Association. He was inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame in 2005.

He served as co-chair of The Ohio State University Campus Campaign Council (1998-99), and he was president of The Ohio State University Retirees Association (1999-00). He received a Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio State University (2002) and was president of the Torch Club of Columbus, Ohio (2006-07).

He was an excellent mentor and provided encouragement, advice, and strategies throughout my career.
Barbara Fink (OD/MS’85, PhD’87)

Dr. Hill retired in 1995 after more than three decades as a prolific professor, respected researcher, and admired administrator. In 2015, Dr. and Mrs. Hill created a lecture series in their names that sponsors an annual lecture in vision science and research at the college.

American author William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) once wrote, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” If Dr. Hill inspired your life and career, and you want to continue his legacy at Ohio State, memorial contributions may be sent to the Richard and Leonora Hill Endowed Lecture Series on Frontiers in Vision Research (Fund 603197) at The Ohio State University Foundation, University Square North, 14 E. 15th Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43201.