The American Academy of 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. The AAOF is proud to be an affiliate 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 Message from Pete Kollbaum, 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. Thanks to many generous supporters, we are fulfilling our mission well in many ways, but there is always more we can do, for which we can use more help!

This year was a notable year for the American Academy of Optometry and our Foundation.  Most notably for the Foundation, throughout the past year we were able to award more than $470,000 in fellowships, scholarships, grants, and residency educational awards to our future colleagues and leaders of our profession. As part of this award amount, the AAOF provided over 105 travel grants to Academy 2018 San Antonio, including 30 as a result of the student giving initiative, the AAOF Student Giving Matching Travel Grants.

Additionally, while at the Academy 2018 meeting, the AAOF raised more than $225,000 in new donations! Specifically, the Alcon Foundation hosted the Hoop It Up 20/20 Challenge, resulting in a $25,000 donation to the AAOF. On behalf of registrants of their popular online educational programming, the leaders at ODwire donated another $10,000. Our central event at the annual meeting continues to be the Celebration Luncheon, honoring all our very deserving awardees, sponsored by Essilor America.  We are very grateful to these groups for their generous support!

The Foundation also received $80,000 in new President's Circle pledges during the meeting, and $10,500 in new Ezell Club pledges.  Both of these 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 175 individual and corporate donor commitments.  

The flagship program of our Foundation continues to be the William C. Ezell Fellowships, which is awarded to encourage talented graduate students to pursue full-time careers in optometric research and education at a school or college of optometry.  This year 13 outstanding Ezell Fellowship recipients were recognized for their future potential and research spanning a broad spectrum of critically important vision science areas.  This research will hopefully continue to find solutions for clinically important diagnostic dilemmas, which may currently hinder the care of our patients.  To date, this elite program has produced 422 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 well as our corporate partners that funded a portion of this year’s fellowships.  We also encourage those that do not already to consider this valuable sustained support mechanism for our Foundation and the future of our profession.

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.  We appreciate your continued help in achieving our goals and helping the individuals supported by these programs continue to achieve great success and their goals!  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 helping lead this wonderful organization. I would like to invite you to consider all the ways you might continue to help further the future of optometry and vision science, through both your monetary donations, as well as those of your time. If you are not already a member, please consider joining the President's Circle or the Circle of Giving in the coming year. It would be wonderful to be able to celebrate the welcoming of many members into the Foundation family at our Academy 2019 Orlando annual meeting, October 23-27, 2019.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Foundation, or if I can be of any help.

Best regards, and I look forward to seeing you in Orlando.

Pete Kollbaum, OD, PhD, FAAO

Photo Credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)

Our Mission Statement

The AAOF is a philanthropic organization that develops and provides financial support for optometric research and education in vision and eye health to improve clinical patient care. The AAOF is organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Code. The goals of the AAOF are:

To solicit, receive and invest grants, bequests, donations, and other funds for the purpose of upholding, broadening, fostering, and promoting optometric education and research in vision and eye health;

To provide fellowships at the graduate level to students planning a teaching and/or research career in vision and eye health;

To recognize and honor achievements which further the visual welfare of humanity; and

To foster inter-professional and intra-professional relations and representation with organizations and groups that share common goals.