New England College of Optometry Celebrates Inauguration of President Howard B. Purcell, OD’84, FAAO

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Dr. Howard B. Purcell spoke about the
challenge of preparing today's optometry
students for the future.

BOSTON—On April 7, 2019, the New England College of Optometry inaugurated Dr. Howard B. Purcell as the 13th president at the 125-year-old institution. Purcell, who started in his role nine months ago, was joined by more than 200 people, consisting of family, colleagues from academia, including student and school leaders, community representatives from the greater Boston area and both professional peers and friends from his career in the ophthalmic industry. Purcell is a graduate of the college's optometric program, continuing the legacy of his father, Saul Purcell, OD’54. The ceremony took place at the Edward Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston in a recreation of the U.S. Senate chamber.

Chairman of the board, Pano Yeracaris, MD, MPH presided over the event, explaining how president Purcell’s “enthusiasm, energy and commitment is matched by his vision and effectiveness as a leader.” An array of 14 speakers shared their thoughts on Purcell and the wealth of experiences and passion that he brings to the role.

Speakers included Alumni president Linda Bennett, OD’80, Student Council president Monica Luo, Class of 2020, faculty chair Bina Patel, OD, FAAO, senior VP/CFO Traci Logan, corporator Cynthia P. Macdonald, JD, classmates Fred Edmunds, OD’84 and Max Engelman, OD’84, professional mentor Jean Carrier, the COO of Essilor International, Purcell's son, Cameron Purcell, and four NECO past presidents — Sylvio Dupuis, OD, LHD, Alan L. Lewis, OD’65, MPH, Elizabeth Chen, MBA, and Clifford Scott, OD’68, MPH.

Cynthia P. Macdonald, great granddaughter of NECO founder August Klein noted all the hats Dr. Purcell must now wear. “I know that each one of those hats will be woven from threads of knowledge and competence, care and compassion, diversity and inclusivity, respect and integrity. These are the shining threads that together create the tapestry of the many generations of the NECO family. The Klein Family Legacy is now entrusted to your care, Dr. Purcell, and I have no doubt it will be well tended.”

President Purcell stepped into his current role on July 1, 2018. Monica Luo, president of the class of 2020 described his immediate immersion into NECO, “For an institution that feels so strongly about the creation and nurturing of meaningful bonds and relationships, president Purcell is the perfect fit. In just his first few months, he made every effort to be present everywhere and to speak to everyone. He is open to listening and providing support."

 
The room at the Edward Kennedy Institute is a
replicaof the U.S. Senate floor. 
Essilor International's
Jean Carrier was one
of many who spoke at
the ceremony
inaugurating Dr. Purcell. 

Many speakers addressed president Purcell’s vision of moving the profession of optometry forward to meet the changing landscape of practice and health care. Traci Logan, senior vice president for finance and administration, CFO explained, “President Purcell will dedicate himself to turning our emerging hurdles—the applicant pipeline and demographic shift, the intense competition for research funding, the lack of diversity in the optometric workforce, student indebtedness, and the steady demise of adequate care for at risk populations—into extraordinary opportunities for thinking outside the box, always with an eye to the future, and how NECO will distinguish itself in educating the next generation of optometrists."

Jean Carrier, COO of Essilor International also noted his accomplishments, adding, “He is generous with his energy, his time, his enthusiasm and his relationships in the profession and in the industry. He is kind and respectful of others no matter the pressure and the circumstances. He is genuinely interested in seeing others grow and thrive. A quality that is as important in a company as it is in education. He builds bridges and fosters cooperation where it seemed impossible. He brings people together for the greater good. His passion for the profession comes from deep human values.”

 
As Purcell greeted well-wishers, four prior NECO presidents
looked on; each spoke at the ceremony.
Howard Purcell, with his wife, Lisa, their children
and a close, childhood friend.

Dr. Yeracaris presented the great seal of the College as he was installed as New England College of Optometry’s 13th president. President Purcell acknowledged the presence of Senator Kennedy at the venue, saying, “Senator Kennedy is known for encouraging others to participate in democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and creating leaders who engage in the civic life of their communities. His vision aligns closely with NECO’s values that include creating optometric leaders who are collaborative, socially responsible, curious and ready to create and innovate.”

Purcell outlined his strategic priorities for the college to help “prepare today’s optometrists for tomorrow’s optometry.” His vision includes diversifying revenue; nurturing diversity, equity and inclusion; expanding continuing education and specialized degree programs; collaborating with industry; and finding ways to best support and prepare our students for whatever changes may arise, finding new pathways to strengthen the profession and the role of the optometrist in vision and health care."