In 2014, the American Academy of Optometry Foundation began a tradition of honoring a former Ezell Fellow by naming an Ezell Club Fellowship in their name for that given year.  The 2018-2019 the Ezell Club Fellowship will be named for Earl L. Smith, III, OD, PhD, FAAO.  This fellowship will be recognized at the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) annual meeting in San Antonio. 

Professor Smith is a former Ezell Fellow and a member of the Ezell Club. He received his OD (1972) and PhD (1978) from the University of Houston and subsequently joined the faculty of the University of Houston, College of Optometry.

During his tenure at UH, he has served as the Chair of the Basic Sciences Department, the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research, the Dean of the College of Optometry, and as the Chief Health Officer of the University of Houston. Professor Smith currently holds the Greeman-Petty Professorship in Vision Development and is serving his second term as the Dean of the College of Optometry.

Professor Smith’s research interests are focused on the optics of the eye. For his research on the role of vision in regulating refractive development and eye growth, he received the Glenn Fry Award (1996) and the Prentice Medal (2010) from the American Academy of Optometry, the Korb Award for Excellence from the Contact Lens and Cornea Section of the AOA (2011), and was recognized as a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow by the National Academy of Practice in Optometry (2012). Professor Smith has published over 190 refereed papers and received 34 years of research funding from the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Eye Institute (NEI). He is also an accomplished lecturer, having received teaching awards at the department, college and university levels.

Professor Smith is an active member of the vision science community. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, an ARVO Fellow (inaugural class), a past President of the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (2002), a past President of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (2010), a past Member and Chair of NIH NEI’s Central Visual Processing Study Section (1998-2003), a past member of NIH’s National Advisory Eye Council (2005-2008), and currently serves as a Director on the Boards of the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research.

For his accomplishments in teaching and his impact on the profession of optometry, the Texas Optometric Association presented Professor Smith with the Educator of the Year (2003) and Optometrist of the Year (2009) awards and the AOA inducted him into National Optometry Hall of Fame (2015).

Ezell Fellowship Fund Overview

The flagship program of the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF), Ezell Fellowships have been provided for nearly 70 years. 

Since 1949, AAOF has awarded over 400 Fellowships. 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. It has attracted applications from numerous institutions, and has allowed researchers to focus their talent in many areas of cutting edge research in areas such as glaucoma, dry eye, corneal physiology, and low vision.

Over the years the foundation has been fortunate to receive funding support from the American Academy of Optometry, the corporate sector, and through several private endowments; the Irvin M. Borish Fund, AAO Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses & Refractive Technologies, Mike Daley/Essilor Endowment, Merton C. Flom Leadership Ezell Fund, the Michael G. Harris Ezell Fund, Optometric Glaucoma Society Ezell Fund.

Unique to this fund, is a very special level of giving by former Ezell Fellows entitled the Ezell Club wherein current and former Ezells are encouraged to give back to the Foundation to support future Fellows. To date, over $250,000 has already been pledged or donated. Please use the Pledge form (PDF format) to make a pledge to the Ezell Fellowship Fund or the contribution form for a one time donation.