The winner of the 2018 competition was
David Hurd of the Northeastern State
University College of Optometry.
DENVER—Here’s the question: what’s the most exciting, most dramatic and loudest event at Optometry’s Meeting every year? The answer, of course, is the Essilor Student Bowl competition that pits students from 25 optometry schools across the nation against each other in a battle of knowledge, one-upmanship and courage (how else would you convince yourself to wear the craziest costume one could imagine wearing in front of your peers?).

This year’s version of the Essilor Bowl—the 27th annual competition—once again hit the mark for excitement, fun, colorful T-shirts and costumes, cheering and downright challenging questions. For example, here’s one of the questions that students faced: What formula calculates the amount of induced prism in a decentered spectacle lens? (See the answer below.)

About 500 to 600 optometry students and other eyecare professionals packed the Bellco Theater at the Colorado Convention Center on Thursday night to take part in this year’s Essilor Bowl. Essilor and its Varilux brand have been the sponsor since the beginning, and the competition is typically held on the second night of the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Optometry’s Meeting.

The winner of the 2018 competition was David Hurd of the Northeastern State University College of Optometry in Tulsa, Okla. Hurd, a former Arkansas football player, came on strong against six other contestants in the final two rounds of the Q&A competition and finished with a final score of 10 points. Steve McCarty of Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) and Jimmy Nguyen of New England College of Optometry (NECO) finished second and third with seven and five points, respectively.

 The crowd goes wild.
Emcee David Seibel, OD, has been a fixture
of the show for 17 years.

The Bowl is a tradition that dates to 1991 when Dr. Rod Tahran, Essilor’s vice president of professional relations, and Danne Ventura, director of professional education for Essilor, conceived the idea and presented it to the executive director of the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA).

Dannne Ventura
The first Varilux Optometry Super Bowl—as it was known at the beginning—was held in January 1992 at the annual AOSA meeting. The AOSA merged with the American Optometry Association (AOA) meeting in 2003 and became Optometry's Meeting, and the Varilux Optometry Super Bowl moved to the new meeting. In 2009, the event was renamed the Varilux Optometry Student Bowl.

“The AOSA meeting used to be a standalone student meeting,” Ventura told VMAIL Weekend after this year’s competition wrapped up late Thursday night. “And it was so serious, it was a serious association meeting. We wanted to find something that would let the students show what they had learned while still having a good time.”

The first competition was “more subdued, as far as the energy in the room, but everybody showed up and we had 500 or 600 students [in attendance],” Ventura recalled. “But they weren’t painting their faces and wearing crazy T-shirts,” she added.

The format of the competition has, basically, stayed roughly the same over the 27 years of the event, aside from making upgrades in the technology used during the competition, Ventura noted. For Ventura, the 2018 event was a bittersweet moment. She’s retiring from Essilor and this year’s Bowl was her final one in a production role.

The judges for the 2018 Essilor Bowl.
Two T-Rexes watch
the proceedings.

The student bowl trophy.

Ventura was given a huge ovation and long cheer when her retirement was announced to the students Thursday night. And the crowd included former students she met during the first Student Bowl in 1992, and many others she has worked with during the production of the Student Bowl over the years. “Can I just soak this in for a minute?” she said from the stage as the students cheered her. “You guys are awesome…. I can’t believe it’s been 27 years. Some of you haven’t even been around 27 years. And it’s going to be 27 more.”

Oh, and the answer to that sample Essilor Bowl question above? The correct answer is “Prentice’s Rule.”