About the American Optometric Foundation


The American Optometric Foundation (AOF) was founded in 1947 for the “upholding, broadening, fostering, promoting and aiding of optometric education; the profession of optometry and its practitioners.” The guiding force behind the creation of the organization was William C. Ezell, OD, of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Based in Orlando, FL, the AOF is a philanthropic organization devoted to the advancement of optometric education and research. AOF is proud to be an affiliate of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO). Today, sources of support for the AOF include optometrists, corporations, other foundations, state associations, and private citizens interested in vision care. The AOF's record of achievement is a strong history of dedication to the improved visual welfare of the public.

A 2016 Message from David Kirschen, President 

The mission of the American Optometric Foundation is to develop and provide financial support for optometric research and education in vision and eye health to improve patient clinical care. We are fulfilling our mission beautifully through the generous charitable giving of our many supporters. Arguably the most exciting accomplishment is the continued increase in the number of President's Circle members. Representing those who pledge or gift $10,000 or more, the AOF President's Circle now has seven giving levels: Circle, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Founder's, Pioneer, and Visionary, that together includes over 150 individual and corporate donor commitments.

This has been a notable year for the American Academy of Optometry and our Foundation. At Academy 2015 New Orleans, the AOF raised more than $175,000!  The Alcon Foundation hosted World Sight Day Cycle for Sight 20/20 Challenge where attendee cycling produced a $25,000 donation and they also sponsored a matching gift capaign for an additional $25,000. On behalf of registrants of their popular online education program, the leaders at ODwire made a donation of $10,000 to the AOF. Our generous meeting attendees gave $22,500 at AOF events and exhibit booth and another $6,896 during registration. More than forty lecturers generously donated their honoraria (totaling $14,632). Our central event at the annual meeting continues to be the Foundation's Celebration Luncheon. The very witty Pete Kollbaum, AAO/AOF Board Member was, once again, the Master of Ceremonies at this year's remarkable event.  The luncheon was attended by 200 supporters and honorees, and the Silent Auction raised $18,500. Finally, $53,000 was received during the meeting in new President's Circle and Ezell Club pledges. Once again showing the extreme generosity of the many individuals and sponsors who continue to support our mission. We thank you!

The flagship program of your Foundation continues to be the William C. Ezell Fellowships. Awarded to graduate students studying in the United States and internationally, ten outstanding Ezell Fellowship recipients were recognized for 2015 in New Orleans. To date this elite program has produced 305 Fellows. We thank the many individuals and organizations; including the Optometric Glaucoma Society who again donated $8,000 on behalf of speakers, that support an endowed Ezell Fellowship, as well as our corporate partners that funded a portion of this year’s program: the Alcon Foundation and Essilor of America.

Throughout this past year, more than $400,000 was awarded in fellowships, scholarships, grants, and residency educational awards. AOF provided sixty-four travel grants to Academy 2015 New Orleans, including four from the new student giving initiative, the AOF Student Matching Gift Travel Grant program. Furthermore, to be launched this year, AOF will offer a new BSK Student Travel Grant. Look for more details to come in a future E-Torch, the AOF's online quarterly information message.

We are also pleased to report that for the New Year the Vision Impact Institute has already pledged a commitment to support an Ezell Fellow in 2016. This pleasant news adds to the excitement that AOF opened its portfolio to incorporate a new fund, the Binocular Vision and Pediatric Ezell Fellowship Fund in 2015 and thanks to a generous gift from the Baycross Christian Family Foundation, will offer a new Binocular Vision and Pediatric Ezell Fellowship also in 2016.

The American Optometric Foundation is proud to be the Academy’s Foundation, your Foundation, and we continue to take great pride in its growth and the successes of the exceptional individuals that we have supported. Contributions to the Foundation allow Academy members to make investments in the future of our profession.

I am very proud to be associated with the AOF and humbled by the honor of leading this wonderful organization. I would like to invite you to invest further in the future of optometry. Please consider joining the President's Circle in the coming year. It would be wonderful to be able to celebrate the addition of many more members at our Academy 2016 Anaheim annual meeting, November 9 - 12.

Best regards for a very happy new year!

David Kirschen, OD, PhD, FAAO -President