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March 16, 2012

The SUNY College of Optometry Gets A Permanent Home

  Columbia University closed its Department of Optometry in 1956.  The same year, the Optometric Center of New York (OCNY) was founded to continue providing clinical vision care services to the New York City community.  With the assistance of the New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA), the leadership of the Optometric Center was able to convince the State of New York, as well as the State Department of Education, to establish a college of optometry within the State. At the time, Optometric Center was located on East 25th Street and was faced with finding a home for the college.

In 1971, the State University of New York, State College of Optometry opened its doors and admitted its first class at its new facilities on 100 East 24th Street. The College rented non-contiguous floors. The fiscal crisis of the State of New York in the 1990s emphasized the need for the College to look for a permanent home. In 1998, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York announced that it would be moving out of its facilities on 33 W. 42nd Street and into the newly renovated B. Altman building at E. 34th Street and 5th Avenue.  The building on 42nd Street was the old Aeolian Hall that manufactured pianos.  It also housed the auditorium where Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" was first played.  This was seen as an opportunity to acquire a permanent home for the College.

In 1999, the University approved the move of the College from 100 East 24th Street to 33 West 42nd Street. After major renovations to floors 5 - 8 to accommodate the University Optometric Center, the College and its clinic was moved to its current location in May 2000. Since then, several floors have undergone renovations for faculty offices, the relocation of several departments, the Laser Center, Alumni Commons and the Schwarz Theater.

2007 began a new chapter in the history of the College. Dr. David A. Heath was appointed the third President of the SUNY State College of Optometry upon the retirement of Dr. Alden N. Haffner.

Today, as part of Dr. Heath’s Master Plan, the College is undergoing a reorganization of its clinic and academic programs and taken on a new logo that identifies the three areas of the institution - the College, the University Eye Center, and research. It is currently in the midst of a five-year major gifts campaign -- The Vision and the Promise -- to raise $10 million and as of today, the College is over the halfway mark.