Bence Family Leadership Student Travel Fellowship

History and Purpose

The American Academy of Optometry portends a leadership culture.  At the Academy annual meeting, we highlight and encourage attendance at our introductory as well as advanced leadership training courses.  The Merton C. Flom Leadership Insight© Program at the Academy annual meeting is often regarded as the leading courses in the profession to further our knowledge of leadership fundamentals and principles. This student travel fellowship includes paid attendance to the Fundamentals of Leadership - Part 1: Defining Leadership course.

This travel fellowship is supported by the Bence family in honor of our parents for teaching us the importance of leadership and integrity.  Our father, Jackson J. Bence, MD, FASC, an orthopedic surgeon and dedicated professional, led by example, devoted his life to the care of others, and encouraged the pursuit of educational goals.  Our mother, Pearl Myers-Bence, past leader of several social organizations, also embodied a strong work ethic and organizational talent.

Brett G. Bence OD, FAAO: partner and Director of Optometry at Northwest Eye Surgeons and the 46th President of the American Academy of Optometry, Seattle, WA.  Kathie M. (Bence) Uhrmacher BA: Educator and World Language Department Chair, President of the Women’s Foundation of Lincoln & Lancaster Co, NE.  Craig A. Bence, MBA: Chief Information Officer and Vice President Information Technology at Owen Industries, trustee and Foundation Board of Directors at St. Andrews UMC, Omaha, NE.  Brenda S. Bence MBA, President of Brenda Bence International, author of 10 books on leadership and branding, executive leadership coach and international branding expert, Singapore.


The fellowship is available to third or fourth year students and residents enrolled in an accredited optometry school. They must be in good academic standing and see themselves as leaders in their future careers in private practice. These fellowships are designed to encourage optometry students to attend key national meetings and contribute to the body of knowledge within the field. 

Eligibility and Application

The submission window is open from July1, 2021 through July 30, 2021.

Fellowship Requirements

  • Must be a 3rd or 4th year student
  • Intends to pursue a career in private practice
  • Must be a member of the American Academy of Optometry
  • Write an essay (about 500 words) describing leadership experiences that you have acquired, and how you plan to use this experience as you assume future leadership roles in our profession, your practice, and your community.

  • Two letters of recommendation from Fellows in good standing, at least one being a faculty member at your school or college of optometry.

Materials MUST be submitted online by the deadline date using the online submission tool. Applications that remain incomplete after the deadline date will not be evaluated. 

Fellowship Notes

Admission to attend the Fundamentals of Leadership Part I: Defining Leadership? course is part of the fellowship. 

Although students can apply to attend a meeting for which they have previously been awarded a travel fellowship, priority may be given to first-time awardees.

It is the standard policy of the AAOF that program recipients who receive as part of their award, a travel stipend to attend an event, cannot receive a second or duplicate travel stipend from the Foundation or its affiliate, the AAO.

Applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision prior to the Academy annual meeting. Recipients are required to attend the AAOF Celebration Luncheon where they will receive their check.

All award recipients by application and acceptance of an award agree to allow the AAOF and/or the sponsor of the program to which they applied to publish their name, image, institution information, and any statement or quote provided by the recipient. These may appear in a variety of media formats that will announce and promote the program including, but not limited to, the AAOF and/or sponsor annual report, website, annual meeting promotional materials.

For further information contact:

Jennifer Rubin
Award and Student Membership Engagement Manager
622 E. Washington St. #300
Orlando, FL 32801
Phone: 321-319-4872

Past Recipients

2020: Not awarded due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

2019: Astiney Franklin
           Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences School of Optometry

: Jennifer Chu
           New England College of Optometry
Bence Dad
Bence Mom

Jackson J. Bence, MD, FASC and 
Pearl Myers-Bence