New Honoree 
Cheryl Archer, OD
Allen-Auglaize Eye Care Center
Lima, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “Dr. Archer is the current president of the Ohio Optometric Association, the second largest state association in the country, certainly one of the most influential women leader in the American Optometric Association (AOA).”

Upon graduation from Ohio State College of Optometry in 1984, Archer toyed with the idea of teaching or going into research, but she opted for private practice and has never looked back. Today, as senior partner and president of a four-office, six-doctor group in Ohio, Archer is still enamored of the idea of being in business for herself saying, “I just can’t see myself running any other type of practice.” Archer participates in several volunteer programs including Vision USA offering free eye exams, as an InfantSee provider, and as a volunteer in VOSH missions to the Ukraine helping to fit more than 500 people with eyeglasses in the span of a week.

 “This year, we are going back to the Ohio legislation to get the state to update the scope of optometric practices, which has a great effect on what we can prescribe and how we can treat patients,” she said.

“We need to be a unified voice advocating that optometry is the source for a lifetime of quality comprehensive eyecare.  We have a powerful message to deliver. Being dedicated to that task is my way of both recognizing the contribution made by leaders preceding me and paying ahead to generations yet to come.”

SHE SAYS... “I’ve learned that you’re capable of achieving so much more when you keep a positive attitude and have a passion for what you are doing. Never allow your attitude to become stagnant. Do not fear success or failure because you’ll learn from both.” 

 New Honoree
Patricia Cochran
Chief Financial Officer
Vision Service Plan
Rancho Cordova, Calif.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “As a pioneering female leader in managed vision care and finance, Patricia acts as a role model and mentor to many women.”

As VSP’s chief financial officer, Cochran leads VSP’s finance division and charitable giving programs. Since she joined VSP in 1978, she has been instrumental in VSP’s numerous acquisitions of regional vision plans. From 1984 to 2000, these acquisitions helped transform the company from a one-state organization to the national leader in eyecare benefits. Cochran’s strategic management skills were fundamental in navigating the compliance steps necessary for VSP to expand to all 50 states.

As a pioneering female leader in managed vision care and finance, Cochran serves as a role model and mentor to many women. She helped establish VSP’s mentor program and made key contributions to VSP’s corporate culture, which blends a focus on high performance with a healthy work/life balance.

Cochran is the founder and leader of VSP’s Sight for Students charity program, which provides underprivileged children nationwide with free eyecare.  She also volunteers on three non-profit boards of directors.

SHE SAYS... “I would encourage young women to find a mentor in their organization to get some honest feedback from outside the normal chain of command. Also, I advocate that they volunteer for causes they love and are passionate about. You can learn a lot of skills that you can bring back into your workplace and further your career.”

 Past Honoree
Grady Culbreth
Liaison, Vision Council of America’s AR Committee
Midlothian, Va.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “She is dedicated to promoting AR lenses, premium lenses and educating ECPs.”

Culbreth is well-known throughout the industry for her work as an educator and as an officer for various industry organizations. She is a member of the Opticians Association of Virginia and president of the National Academy of Opticianry. In 1999, she became the first female president of the AR Council.

Currently, Culbreth serves as liaison for the Vision Council of America’s AR Committee. In September, she will become president of the Optical Women’s Association.

Culbreth earned her opticianry degree from J. Sargeant Reynolds in the early 1980s. (She’s now on the school’s advisory board.) She used her skill and knowledge to earn the confidence of patients who were used to seeing a male optician in the dispensary.

In 1989, Culbreth began her corporate career with Carl Zeiss Optical, Inc. (now Carl Zeiss Vision), holding a variety of jobs including manager of sales administration, national professional development manager, director of business development and spokesperson. For the last two years, she has served as a consultant to Zeiss. She also operates her own consulting company.

SHE SAYS...  “Women will find many opportunities for professional growth and development if they join an optical organization and chair a committee. That experience will help you learn how to manage, and you’ll be able to meet influential people. You’ll be helping the organization as well as helping yourself.”

 Past Honoree
Liz DiGiandomenico
Senior Vice President General Manager/EyeMed Vision Care
Mason, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “She is passionate about providing value and service to clients, members and providers... adept at identifying trends and translating them into products that meet the evolving needs of her customers.”

Liz DiGiandomenico is currently responsible for all facets of EyeMed’s sales, marketing and services, having led the company’s growth to a position where EyeMed now serves more than 135 million covered lives through more than 3,500 client companies. Under DiGiandomenico’s leadership, and with the rising demand for vision wellness and its growing role in overall health care and wellness programs, EyeMed has continued steady growth year after year. Over the past three years, the company has continued to see double-digit revenue growth, according to DiGiandomenico.

DiGiandomenico was also a founding member and is currently first vice president of the National Association of Vision Care Plans. 

SHE SAYS... “This is an exciting time for women in optical, with more women making important inroads into many professional areas. More Asian women are entering and completing optometry school than any other female minority, which adds a key element of diversity as well.”

 Past Honoree
Andrea Gluck
Eyewear Designs Ltd.
Syosset, N.Y.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “She demonstrates longevity in an ever changing industry, influences trends and the way we look at the optical field today.”

Thirty-two years ago Andrea Gluck was a neighbor of the man who would change the course of her life forever, her future partner at Eyewear Designs Ltd., the late Barry Baum, and after three decades she still loves coming to work every morning. Gluck, who since became the founding president of the Children’s Vision Coalition, a member  and Pleiades honoree of the OWA, and the most recent past chairman of the VCA, is responsible for sales, product and marketing of Eyewear Designs Ltd., and credits a good portion of her success to her parents. “I come from a large Irish family and we learned early on to pull our own weight. It didn’t matter if you were a girl or boy, old or young, if you were assigned a job you got it done. It built a great work ethic in all of us,” said Gluck. Her personal philosophy is to run her business the same way she runs her personal life: by treating all people equally and by caring about everything with the same intensity.

SHE SAYS...  “There are no problems, only solutions. Les Brown said,  ‘Shoot for the moon--even if you miss you will land among the stars.’ To  me it means never say ‘never,’ always give it a try.”

 New Honoree  
Mary Hagge
President, Co-owner
MJ Optical
Omaha, Neb.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “She has kept MJ Optical in Vision Monday’s Top Labs since taking over the company in 2003, with growth happening each year.”

Mary and Mike Hagge started MJ Optical 42 years ago as an uncut lab in their Omaha basement. In the beginning, Mary fined and polished lenses and handled the billing. After Mike moved the lab to a bigger building, she trained to be a nurse and then stayed home to raise their seven children. She also raised thoroughbred horses.

When Mike passed away in 2003, Mary took over the leadership of MJ. With the support of her employees, including her sons Marty, Morrie, Mike and daughter Michelle, Mary soon set to work modernizing the business. MJ is now a full-service laboratory that is completely computerized and offers a diverse product range.

She continues to indulge her equestrian passion and now raises quarter horses.

SHE SAYS... “I try to encourage everybody, no matter what their role is. I have an open door. Anybody can come and talk with me about anything.”

 Past Honoree
Diana Hall
Bard Optical
Peoria, Ill.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “A true pioneer among women in optical active business leader.” 

Diana Hall has owned Bard Optical since 1981, taking it from a 40-year-old, single-location dispensary to an 18-store operation that generated $8.5 million in overall sales in 2006--an increase in volume of more than 20 percent over the last five years. Hall gives credit to Bard Optical’s employees--many of them company veterans--for much of the chain’s steady growth: “Organizational consistency is a major factor in our success,” she said. 

Hall also pays close attention to training in sales and customer service, urging store personnel to greet long-time customers by name and to maintain relationships with them. Helping other women find their niches in retailing, in general, and in optical in particular, is important to Hall. She regularly spends time speaking before business groups, and is serving this year as incoming president of the central Illinois chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. 

SHE SAYS... “It’s so important for successful women to reach out to other women and help them move up the ladder. Part of that is through talking about all aspects of the business--the good as well as the bad.” 

 Past Honoree
Julie King
Vice President/Divisional Merchandise Manager, Optical Merchandising
Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club
Bentonville, Ark.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “She is responsible for sourcing and purchasing for one of the largest optical operations in the country. She is also out in front speaking of women’s health and the importance of regular eye exams.”

King oversees merchandising for the  3,000-plus company-owned Wal-Mart Vision Centers and Sam’s Club Opticals in the U.S. Before joining Wal-Mart’s optical division in August 2003, she worked in merchandising in jewelry, sunglasses and watches for the retailing giant; King celebrates her 12th year with Wal-Mart this month.

She sees the key opportunity for the Wal-Mart and Sam’s optical departments as “education for our consumers.” What I enjoy most in my job is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our patients --like being a part of national outreach programs that provide needy children with vision care, educating adult patients what to expect as their eyes age and as their children's eyes develop, and leading them to the high-value solutions we have at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Clubs.” 

SHE SAYS... “As women develop their careers in optical, my advice is to keep one thing in mind and that one thing is the patient. If you are a good student of the patient you will have the answers needed for success.”

 New Honoree 
Heike Kremser
Managing Director
Base Curve
Sun Valley, Calif.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “Heike was a pioneer in the high-end segment of the industry in the 90s and has brought her wealth of experience to a new leadership role for Base Curve.”

As a child in Germany, Heike Kremser dreamed about living in the U.S... In the early 90’s that dream was realized when she arrived on a special project for Swatch Eyes and stayed to work for EYEota. After spearheading the launches of high-end brands like Kata and Isaac Mizrahi, she left the optical industry in 2002 and returned in 2005 when Steve Horowitz, executive vice president of REM, asked her to head up a new, as yet named, division. Kremser, armed with a fresh perspective, became the managing director of Base Curve, where she is involved in every aspect of the business, from building the brands to customer service and finance. “The additional perspective of having lived and worked in other countries has helped me to think globally and to reach across other cultures and industries,” said Kremser. “The greatest challenge is to get your brands on the map. It is an oversaturated market and you have to find a way to make your brands indispensable to the consumers and opticians. But I love what I do because I have a great team of people to rely on.”

SHE SAYS... “Given the scope of the industry, there is no area a woman can’t be successful in if you follow your heart, identify as best you can what you want to do and go for it.”  

 Past Honoree
Deborah Malakoff
VP Trade Shows
Vision Council of America
Alexandria, Va.

CHOSEN BECAUSE... “She is a leader in coordinating all of VCA’s programs. In her role with the Vision Expos for VCA, she’s extremely adept at marketing, relationships and building on prior levels of success.”

Malakoff started her career with a B.S. in ad design and marketing, joining RCA Records. She freelanced for optical retail pioneer, Bob Hillman, when he had one store. When Quaker Oats bought Hillman’s business, he hired her as visual merchandising manager for what grew into 38 EyeLab locations. Deb joined him again in a new Hillman-Kohan venture as director of creative services until that business was sold in 1999. She later was tapped by the Vision Council of America (VCA) . 

“Apart from my day-to-day interactions with VCA member companies my focus is on the show partnership with Reed, the VCA Show Committee, and  relations with industry organizations affiliated with our events,” she noted. Last year, VCA welcomed a new CEO, industry veteran Ed Greene, who has reenergized the staff, the membership and the partnership.”

Malakoff recently completed serving a three-year term on the board of MATSO (Major American Trade Show Organizers trade association). Last March, Malakoff received the Optical Women’s Association’s 2007 Pleiades honor.

SHE SAYS...  “Of all the advice I’ve received through the years, one piece of advice is paramount: be passionate about what you do--otherwise it’s time to do something else. Of late, I rely the most on my husband, Tony Castor, who continues to be a great sounding board and confidant.”