TAHLEQUAH – The Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry recently presented three Honorary Doctor of Science in Optometry Degrees to individuals who have made significant contributions to the establishment and development of the college.
Dr. Larry Williams, retiring NSU president, and Saundra Gragg Naifeh, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, were honored at the annual NSU Oklahoma College of Optometry Convocation on Friday, May 9. Dr. Roger Webb, president of the University of Central Oklahoma and former NSU president, was honored at commencement ceremonies for the Broken Arrow campus on Monday, May 12.
“Each of these individuals has made significant contributions to the field of optometry through establishing NSUOCO and expanding its reputation as the premier clinical training college of optometry in the U.S. which develops leaders in the profession and in their communities,” said Dr. George Foster, dean of NSUOCO. “As we mark the 25th anniversary of the first graduating class of the College of Optometry, we want to honor those individuals who played a major role in its success.”
Webb, who served as NSU president from 1978-1997, worked with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, members of the Oklahoma legislature, the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, the Cherokee Nation, Indian Health Services, the City of Tahlequah and the U.S. Congress to study the feasibility and later implement the Oklahoma College of Optometry at NSU. Under his leadership, the college opened its doors in the fall of 1979, with Webb conferring the first doctoral degrees to 17 graduates in the spring of 1983.
During his tenure as NSU president, Williams worked with members of the Oklahoma legislature to clarify the types of procedures optometrists could perform after a court ruling excluded a significant portion of the services optometrists could provide in the state. Williams took up the crusade to document the validity of the NSUOCO curriculum, and provided significant resources and commitment to the college. He made great strides in developing relationships with NSUOCO alumni to benefit the student applicant pool.
Naifeh helped to facilitate the placement of NSUOCO graduates into fulfilling and rewarding careers since taking the helm of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians in 1988. As mayor of Edmond, Naifeh has led by example and worked diligently to enhance the leadership skills of NSUOCO graduates and their involvement in government, insurance and other agencies. She has been an advocate from NSUOCO in the legislature, and her passion for the profession has resulted in Oklahoma leading the U.S. in scope of practice and respect for optometry as a public health profession.
NSUOCO provides an educational environment conducive to learning, motivates students to make a commitment to life-long learning, and challenges students to contribute to society through community involvement. NSUOCO students experience over 40,000 patient encounters every year. NSUOCO is Oklahoma’s only college of optometry and one of 17 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.