Reed Exhibitions and The Vision Council Establish the Alan J. Ritter Innovation Award, First Recipient Is New Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Vision Expo, in a joint effort funded between Reed Exhibitions and The Vision Council, has established the Alan C. Ritter Innovation Award. Inspired by Alan Ritter, a transformational leader in the vision care industry and one of the original founders of The Vision Council who passed away in July 2020, the annual award will bestow $10,000 to a person or group who seeks to continually bring progressive change to the vision industry. The recipient of the inaugural 2021 award is the Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program,  a recently launched 501(c)(3) charity created by The Vision Council through the Better Vision Institute, an Educational Foundation connected to the organization, to support high school students in marginalized communities throughout the U.S. who have an interest in pursuing a career in the optical industry.

The program will support selected students through monetary scholarships to opticianry school, paid internships and mentorships. The intent of the program is to launch a far-reaching effort that can expand to other segments of the industry.

The program recently launched and a fundraising auction last week and the commitments of several U.S. optical retail groups and independents have raised $150,000 to date toward the program's goal, as VMAIL reported.

The 2021 Alan C. Ritter Award was announced at The Vision Council’s Executive Summit on Wednesday, January 27 during an evening happy hour and virtual auction, all proceeds of which were contributed to the Open Your Eyes Scholarship Program.

“Alan was a transformative figure within the vision community whose spirit and pivotal contributions continue to shape the industry’s innovative and collaborative spirit today,” said Ashley Mills, CEO of The Vision Council. “We are proud to pay homage to Alan’s contributions and recognize the leaders of tomorrow through this new award.”

“We are excited to launch this award now, after a disruptive year during which the optical community had to pivot, innovate and rise to meet so many challenges,” said Fran Pennella, vice president, Vision Expo, at Reed Exhibitions. “Reed Exhibitions launched a Global Race Relations Committee last year with a commitment to facilitate positive sustainable change, and this award is one of the ways we are following through on our commitment.”

VMAIL reported on Ritter's passing last June.

He was one of the original founders of The Vision Council, serving as its first president in 1986. Ritter and the other founding members formed the Vision Industry Council of America (VICA), which eventually became known as The Vision Council, as a trade association of industry members who would operate an optical show in the U.S. and use the profits from the show to promote the industry.

Ritter was the first chairman of VICA and served as chairman for three years. He also served on The Vision Council Board and various committees for many years. Additionally, Ritter was instrumental in the establishment of Vision Expo East in New York City, suggesting the Javits Center as an appropriate venue and negotiating the first agreement with Cahners-Reed, which later merged with Reed Exhibitions, the co-owner of Vision Expo.