EyeMart Express Founder Doug Barnes, OD, Donates $5 Million to University of Houston College of Optometry

HOUSTON— University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) alumnus Doug Barnes, OD, and his wife Molly have made a $5 million pledge to the University of Houston (UH). The gift will be submitted for state matching funds through the Texas Research Incentive Program. To honor the donors, the first two floors of the new Health and Biomedical Sciences Building at UH will be named the Molly and Doug Barnes Vision Institute.

Named a distinguished alumnus at UH this year, Barnes received his Doctor of Optometry degree in 1975 after earning his bachelor’s in business from Western Kentucky University in 1970. In 1990, he founded EyeMart Express, which has grown to 135 locations in 32 states and stretches across the country from Alaska to Maine, with more than 300 optometrists practicing in its network. EyeMart Express performs more than 1 million eye exams, sells 2 million pairs of prescription glasses annually and expects to generate more than $250 million

“EyeMart Express is a remarkable organization that reflects the ingenuity and creativity of its founder, Doug Barnes,” said Earl Smith, dean of UHCO. “He is arguably our college’s most successful graduate.” In addition to studying at UHCO during the same time period, both Smith and Barnes paid homage to long-time faculty member, Troy Fannin, who played a key role in getting each of them into the college. Barnes said Fannin has been and continues to be an inspiration to many optometrists.

The heart of the Molly and Doug Barnes Vision Institute will be the 16,000-square foot ambulatory surgery center, the first of its kind within an optometry school. It will provide new clinical services for patients, inter-professional educational experiences for students and postgraduate training for practicing optometrists. It will also include a laser refractive center, labs for patient-based research, classrooms and a student commons area for interactive learning.

“I hope our gift helps advance the profession of optometry to a higher level as well as lift the educational process at the University of Houston,” said Barnes. “With this investment, I wanted to show my appreciation for the College of Optometry for accepting me and educating me years ago. Additionally, I’m impressed with the passion and commitment shown by dean Earl Smith and president Renu Khator to advance the University of Houston to a higher tier. The university is very fortunate to have them as leaders.”