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IU optometry students ‘pay it forward’ with largest student gift in school’s history

June 1, 2016

It was during the IU School of Optometry’s most glamorous event that the next generation of IU optometrists announced their plan to leave a legacy for those who follow in their path.

IU Optometric Student Association

Members of the IU Optometric Student Association gave $25,000 to the IU School of Optometry in support of student scholarships, travel grants and enhancement projects -- the most generous student gift in the school’s history. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IU OPTOMETRIC STUDENT ASSOCIATION

During the school’s annual “Eye Ball” gala in February, members of the IU Optometric Student Association revealed a plan to gift $25,000 to the school in support of student scholarships, travel grants and enhancement projects. The funds represent the most generous student gift in the school’s history.

The creation of the IU School of Optometry student endowment fund was officially announced on IU Day, April 12. Inspired by the students’ generosity, the School of Optometry’s alumni board recently responded with a matching gift of their own -- bringing the total committed to the endowment to $50,000.

“Our class is proud to help contribute to the well-being of students at the IU School of Optometry through the establishment of this fund,” said Nathan Morrow, outgoing president of the IU Optometric Student Association. “Although we know this gift may not affect us personally during our academic careers, we wanted to have an impact on the students at the school for years to come.”

Raising the funds for the gift was the effort of many years and many students. Dollars were raised in the form of student association membership fees, donations from outside organizations and proceeds from the student’s annual equipment show. This event, organized in part by IU optometry students, invites major optometry equipment manufacturers, suppliers and representatives to campus to show off the gear that students who go on to set up their own optometry practices will use in their careers after graduation.

“We’ve seen a substantial growth in our association’s funds over the past 10 years,” said Morrow. “A lot of credit must be given to our preceding student leaders at the IU School of Optometry.”

He added the decision to set up the gift as an endowment through the IU Foundation arose from the desire of the 2015-2016 student association’s leadership team to create a “lasting legacy” whose impact would grow year after year through the continued support of the school and its students.

“This level of support coming from students is so special because it’s rare,” said Paula Jenkins, vice president of development for the IU Bloomington campus at the IU Foundation. “The IU Optometric Student Association has set an incredible example for other students and student groups who are interested in really making a difference here at IU.”

The five members of the IUSO Alumni Association Board responsible for the matching gift are Herb Price, OD, board president; Monica Price Kowaleski, OD, board member and executive council member of the IU School of Optometry; Vaughn Sanders, OD, board member; Greg Norman, OD, board treasurer; and Steve Hitzeman, OD, board member. Price, Kowalski and Norman operate optometry practices in Indiana. Sanders’ practice is based in Kentucky. Hitzeman, currently an associate clinical professor emeritus, has served on the IU School of Optometry faculty over 35 years.

“These gifts are an extraordinary act of generosity and leadership,” said Joseph A. Bonanno, professor and dean of the IU Bloomington School of Optometry. “This thoughtful and generous support from IU Optometric Student Association is a shining example of why we’re so proud of our students, and this level of commitment from our alumni board is incredibly meaningful. We are most grateful to all our students -- past and present -- for these most generous gifts.”

Video messages about the gift from the five contributing alumni, as well as Morrow, are available on the IU School of Optometry Facebook page.

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