About the American Academy of Optometry Foundation


The American Academy Optometry Foundation (AAOF) 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 AAOF is a philanthropic organization devoted to the advancement of optometric education and research. AAOF is proud to be the foundation of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO). Today, sources of support for the AAOF include optometrists, corporations, other foundations, state associations, and private citizens interested in vision care. The AAOF's record of achievement is a strong history of dedication to the improved visual welfare of the public.

A 2017 Message from David Kirschen, President 

The mission of the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF) 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 contributions of our many supporters.

This year the Foundation celebrates 70 years, and the most exciting accomplishment is the increasing amount of financial support awarded. Throughout the past year, more than $450,000 was presented in fellowships, scholarships, grants, and residency educational awards. AAOF provided over 70 travel grants to Academy 2016 Anaheim, including ten as a result of the student giving initiative, the AAOF Student Giving Matching Travel Grants. 

Last year was a notable year for the American Academy of Optometry and our Foundation. At Academy 2016 Anaheim, AAOF raised more than $230,000! The Alcon Foundation hosted the Howard the Hedgehog Experience, resulting in a $25,000 donation to the AAOF. On behalf of registrants of their popular online education program, the leaders at ODwire again made a donation of $10,000. Our central event at the annual meeting continues to be the Celebration Luncheon. The witty Pete Kollbaum, AAO and AAOF Board Member, was once again the Master of Ceremonies at the luncheon. 

The Foundation received $98,000 in new President's Circle and Ezell Club pledges during the meeting, demonstrating the extreme generosity of the many individuals and sponsors who continue to support our mission. Representing those who pledge or gift $10,000 or more, the AAOF President’s Circle now has seven giving levels; Circle, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Founder’s, Pioneer, and Visionary, that together include over 160 individual and corporate donor commitments. 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 Canada, nine outstanding Ezell Fellowship recipients were recognized for 2016 in Anaheim. To date, this elite program has produced 314 Fellows. Among the list of former Ezell Fellows are over 20 deans and presidents of optometric schools and colleges, over 130 faculty members and over 160 Fellows of the American Academy of Optometry, including three of its presidents. We thank the many individuals and organizations that support an endowed Ezell Fellowship, as as well as our corporate partners that funded a portion of this year’s fellowships: the Alcon Foundation and Vision Impact Institute.

The American Academy of Optometry 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 who we have supported. Contributions to the Foundation are advancing optometry’s future.

I am very proud to be associated with the American Academy of Optometry Foundation 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 Circle of Giving members at Academy 2017 Chicago on October 11-14.

Best regards, 

David Kirschen, OD, PhD, FAAO