Irvin M. Borish Ezell Fellowship Fund


Known as “the father of modern optometry,” Dr. Irvin M. Borish’s contributions to optometry are legendary. He is credited with advancing the practice of refraction, contact lenses, practice management, and professional ethics. He published more than 80 articles and nine books throughout his career including his most well known, the Second Edition of Borish’s Clinical Refraction (2006). It is in it's seventh iteration. He lectured nationally and internationally and was recognized through many prominent awards.

The Borish Ezell Fellowship Fund was established in 2007. The Ezell Fellowship will, in perpetuity, award one student each year with an $8,000 fellowship and two $750 travel fellowships to attend the American Academy of Optometry Annual Meeting and the following year’s ARVO meeting. These amounts may be increased over time as resources permit. The Fund was created from The Irvin M. Borish Charitable Lead Unitrust (established in 1995 by Dr. Borish). Over $100,000 was contributed by Dr. Borish. Essilor contributed $130,000 to take the total endowment to the level required to endow an Ezell Fellowship. 

Irvin M. Borish Ezell Fellows: 
2016: Aiswaryah Radhakrishnan
2015: Kavitha Ratnam
2014: Renfeng Xu
2013: Naveen Yadav
2012: Tatiana Ecoiffier
2012: William Tuten
2011: Pablo de Gracia
2010: Juan "Jenny" Huang
2009: Tihomira Petkova
2008: Dean VanNasdale
2007: Tracy Nguyen




2015 Award Recipient

2015 Irvin M. Borish Ezell Fellow Kavitha Ratnam (right) is presented her crystal award plaque by AOF President, David Kirschen, at the annual AOF Celebration Luncheon held during Academy 2015 New Orleans.

Ms. Ratnam completed her undergraduate degree in Bioengineering at University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and is currently a graduate student in the Vision Science PhD program at UCB School of Optometry where her research focus is studying the effects of fixational eye movements on visual acuity at the cone sampling limit.

A student member of the American Academy of Optometry and an AOF Ezell Club member, she is also a science writer for the UCB Science Review and a member of the Center for Adaptive Optics at UC Santa Cruz where she annually plans a vision science lab for the Adaptive Optics Summer School.

Remembering Dr. Borish

After a brief illness, Irvin M. Borish, OD, FAAO, passed away on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the age of 99. Dr. Borish had been a Fellow of the Academy since 1940.

At the request of Dr. Borish and his family, memorial contributions may be made to any of the following organizations:

  • American Optometric Foundation, 2909 Fairgreen Street, Orlando, FL 32803
  • Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research, Indiana University Foundation, P.O. Box 500, Bloomington, IN 47402
  • Irvin M. Borish Chair in Optometry, University of Houston, College of Optometry, 505 J. Davis Armistead Building, Houston, TX 77204

In one way or another, whether you know it or not, Dr. Borish touched your professional life in deep and lasting ways. Please take a moment as you read this to think of him fondly and with great respect. A full rememberance appears lower on this page.

Please make a donation to the Borish Ezell Fellowship Fund in Dr. Borish's honor.
   or use the pledge form to make a contribution to the Borish Ezell Fellowship Fund.

Some Memories....

Optometrist of the Century, Irvin Borish, OD, FAAO was surprised with a birthday cake at the Foundation Luncheon in Tampa. Two hundred guests rose to their feet to sing "happy birthday" to Irv, who turned 95 in early 2008. Irv took a few minutes to share some wisdom while guests listened intently.2007 marked the awarding of the first Borish-Ezell Fellowship. This endowed fellowship is funded from longterm gifts from Irv and a one-time $130,000 gift from Essilor. Essilor President Mike Daly was on hand to help Irv celebrate and to be recognized for Essilor’s support and generosity.

The Artist

Academy Meetings

Irvin M. Borish, OD, FAAO 1913-2012

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Irvin M. Borish, 99, of Boca Raton, FL., formerly of Kokomo and Bloomington, IN., and Houston, TX, died at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 3, in Boca Raton. He was the father of modern optometry.

Dr. Borish was born on Jan. 21, 1913 in Philadelphia, PA. to a mother and father who came to the United States as immigrants. He went to elementary and high school in Liberty, NY where his parents worked in a small business that they owned. After abandoning his early love of studying literature at college and becoming a writer, Irvin M. Borish pursued optometry as a career, graduating from the Northern Illinois College of Optometry (NICO) in 1934, with highest honors. He planned to practice optometry on the East Coast. However, his commitment to Bea Silver, whom he met during his schooling in Chicago, resulted in him accepting a position at NICO as a clinical instructor. That position started in 1936. While at NICO, Dr. Borish set out to help establish uniform standards and evaluation systems for optometric education. Along with others, he convinced the American Optometric Association (AOA) to assume responsibility for Council on Optometric Education, the accrediting body for schools and colleges of optometry. In 1940, he supported the establishment of a permanent organization, the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. Dr. Borish’s talents at persuasion emerged early and benefitted optometry in many ways over the past 76 years.

Dr. Borish is survived by his daughter, Fran Goldman, of Dallas, PA., granddaughter Beth Roman and great-grandchildren Jacob and Max Roman of Houston, TX, and granddaughter Ruth Helgemo and great-grandchildren Ryan, Eric, and Sara Helgemo of Morton Grove, IL. He was preceded in death by his wife, Beatrice, his brother, Harold Borish, and his sister, Elsie Goldstein.

Dr. Borish qualified for fellowship of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) soon after his graduation, leading to more than 70 years of dedicated service to the AAO and its affiliate, the American Optometric Foundation (AOF). He served on almost every AAO committee and was a confidante of most of the AAO presidents since 1936. In 1996, he charted an exemplary path for excellence by endowing the AAO’s Irvin M. and Beatrice Borish Award. This award recognizes an outstanding young scientist or clinician-scientist who has shown exceptional promise to conduct independent research directly related to clinical ocular disorders.

In 1944, after giving up his position as clinic director at NICO, Dr. Borish moved to Indiana to start an optometric practice in Kokomo. He chose Indiana because, he once said, “Indiana optometrists generally maintained high standards of practice.” Soon after, at the request of John Davey, Noah Bixler and a small group of Indiana optometrists who had set their sights on establishing an optometry school at Indiana University, Borish joined Drs. Davey and Bixler in a meeting with then-IU President Herman B. Wells. An optometry program was established at IU Bloomington in 1951, seven years after the first meeting with President Wells. Soon after the program was established, Dr. Borish became a part-time faculty member at IU, commuting weekly from Kokomo to teach.

While in Kokomo, Dr. Borish developed a professional practice. With his wife, Bea, the Borishes became charter members in the Kokomo Civic Theater, the Kokomo Music Society and the Kokomo Art Association. Dr. Borish took up acting and painting, and many of his paintings now grace homes and offices of his close friends and those who have purchased them from the AOF’s annual silent auction. Many of these paintings are elegantly portrayed in a publication commissioned by the eyeglass lens company Essilor to celebrate Dr. Borish’s 90th birthday. The book was a culmination of Dr. Borish’s long relationship with Essilor’s staff who consulted with him extensively and made sure that wherever he was in his elder years at meetings, he was never alone.

It turned out that Dr. Borish did not escape his initial ambition to become a writer. His writings established him as “the father of modern optometry.” He published his first bound volume, Outline of Optometry, in 1938. The first edition of the seminal Clinical Refraction, which he wrote in nine months from January to September 1947, was published in 1949. The second and third editions of Clinical Refraction were published in 1954 and 1970, respectively, and a redacted two-volume version was published in 1975. Subsequently, Borish’s Clinical Refraction was edited by William J. Benjamin and published in 1998. The second edition of Borish’s Clinical Refraction (2006) is the seventh iteration of his venerable book. These books provided optometry an intellectual foundation to build on and made Dr. Borish famous throughout the world -- so much so that students in the developing world would photocopy his entire book and present it to him for his autograph. Throughout his career, Dr. Borish published more than 80 articles and nine books, most as a private practitioner of optometry and not as an academic, all in an effort to help his profession define itself.

In 1973, following a near fatal heart attack, Dr. Borish was persuaded to retire from his practice in Kokomo and to join the IU School of Optometry as a tenured full professor. He served as professor of optometry and director of clinics and also created the school’s first clinical research unit. Dr. Borish retired from IU in 1982. Not surprisingly, retirement did not last long. The University of Houston, College of Optometry honored him in 1982 by appointing him to the Benedict Chair, the first chair in optometry in the United States. Upon his retirement from the University of Houston, Borish was honored again by the university, which established the Irvin M. Borish Endowed Chair in Optometric Practice.

At Indiana University, the fledgling clinical research center Dr. Borish was so instrumental in developing in the early 1970s continued on its path of development as a university-wide clinical research center. In 1995, IU established a patient-based research center for translational research in optometry and vision science. To honor Dr. Borish’s long commitment to clinical research, the School of Optometry faculty voted unanimously to name the center the Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research.
Dr. Borish’s contributions to optometry are legendary. He advanced the areas of refraction, contact lenses, practice management and professional ethics. He lectured nationally and internationally to packed lecture rooms. He was recognized through prestigious awards including the 1968 AOA Apollo Award, an honorary degree from IU in 1968, the 1985 William Feinbloom Award from the AAO, the 1987 Max Schapero Award from the AAO’s section on Cornea and Contact Lenses, the 1989 Distinguished Service Award from the AOA, and the 2002 Eminent Service Award from the AAO. In 1996, the World Council of Optometry named Dr. Borish the Optometrist of the Year, and in 1998 he was the first inductee to the National Optometry Hall of Fame. In its 1999 issue welcoming the next century, Review of Optometry announced that its readers had selected Dr. Borish as the "the most influential optometrist of our time" and the “OD of the Century.” The Herman B. Wells Visionary Award, given to individuals whose vision and entrepreneurial spirit have brought them to an extraordinary level of achievement in their professional endeavors and in their service to humanity, was awarded to Dr. Borish in 2002 for his creativity, perseverance and intrepid spirit. This award was very special to Dr. Borish because it carried the name of the beloved IU president with whom Dr. Borish worked to establish the School of Optometry at IU.

Borish’s last lecture to IU optometry students was delivered in the fall of 2008. A year later, he judged his last Optometry Student Bowl and attended his last AAO meeting in Orlando. He delivered his last commencement address at the University of Houston, College of Optometry in 2010, at age 97.

At the request of Dr. Borish and his family, memorial contributions may be made to: American Optometric Foundation, 2909 Fairgreen Street, Orlando, FL 32803; the Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research, Indiana University Foundation, P.O. Box 500, Bloomington, Ind. 47402; or Irvin M. Borish Chair in Optometry, University of Houston, College of Optometry, 505 J. Davis Armistead Building, Houston, Texas 77204.