On April 7, 2019, New England College of Optometry inaugurated Dr. Howard B. Purcell as president. Dr. Purcell is the 13th president in the College’s 125 year history. He is a graduate of the program, continuing the legacy of his father, Saul Purcell, OD’54. The ceremony took place at the beautiful Edward Kennedy Institute for the US Senate in Boston in a recreation of the US Senate chamber. The event was attended by over 200 people including the President’s family, friends, and former/current colleagues, student leaders, industry leaders, and community representatives. Distinguished delegates included representatives from four optometry schools – Dr. Kevin Alexander (Marshall B. Ketchum University), Dr. Morris Berman (MCPHS), Dr. Mark Colip (Illinois College of Optometry), and Dr. David Heath (State University of New York College of Optometry).
Chairman of the Board, Pano Yeracaris, MD, MPH presided over the event, explaining how President Purcell’s “enthusiasm, energy and commitment is matched by his vision and effectiveness as a leader.” An array of 14 speakers shared their thoughts on President Purcell and the wealth of experiences and passion that he brings to the role. Speakers included Alumni President Linda Bennett, OD’80, Student Council President Monica Luo, Class of 2020, Faculty Chair Bina Patel, OD, FAAO, Senior VP/CFO Traci Logan, Corporator Cynthia P. Macdonald, JD, classmates Fred Edmunds, OD’84 and Max Engelman, OD’84, professional mentor Jean Carrier, son Cameron Purcell, and four NECO past presidents – Sylvio Dupuis, OD, LHD, Alan L. Lewis, OD’65, MPH, Elizabeth Chen, MBA, and Clifford Scott, OD’68, MPH.
Cynthia P. Macdonald, JD, great granddaughter of NECO founder August Klein noted all the hats Dr. Purcell must now wear. “I know that each one of those hats will be woven from threads of knowledge and competence, care and compassion, diversity and inclusivity, respect and integrity. These are the shining threads that together create the tapestry of the many generations of NECO family. The Klein Family Legacy is now entrusted to your care, Dr. Purcell, and I have no doubt it will be well tended.”
President Purcell stepped into his current role on July 1, 2018. Over the past nine months, he has become indelibly connected to the NECO community. Student Council President Monica Luo, Class of 2020 described his immediate immersion into NECO, “For an institution that feels so strongly about the creation and nurturing of meaningful bonds and relationships, President Purcell is the perfect fit. In just his first few months, he made every effort to be present everywhere and to speak to everyone…. For every individual, he is open to listening and providing support. He is always present and always receptive.”
Many speakers addressed President Purcell’s vision of moving the profession of optometry forward to meet the changing landscape of practice and health care. Traci Logan, Senior Vice President for Finance & Administration, CFO explained, “President Purcell will dedicate himself to turning our emerging hurdles – the applicant pipeline and demographic shift, the intense competition for research funding, the lack of diversity in the optometric workforce, student indebtedness, and the steady demise of adequate care for at risk populations – into extraordinary opportunities for thinking outside the box, always with an eye to the future, and how NECO will distinguish itself in educating the next generation of optometrists.
Dr. Purcell brings a passion, optimism, and energy for leading and transforming optometric education and those throughout the morning spoke to those qualities he brings to his Presidency. Jean Carrier, Chief Operating Officer of Essilor International noted his accomplishments, but also spoke to President Purcell’s commitment to the people with whom he works and the compassion he brings to his leadership. Mr. Carrier explained, “He is generous with his energy, his time, his enthusiasm and his relationships in the profession and in the industry. He is kind and respectful of others no matter the pressure and the circumstances. He is genuinely interested in seeing others grow and thrive. A quality that is as important in a company as it is in education. Dr. Purcell builds bridges and fosters cooperation where it seemed impossible. He brings people together for the greater good. His passion for the profession comes from deep human values.”
State Representative Jay Livingstone conferred government citations from the Senate and House of Representatives to President Purcell while Dr. Yeracaris presented the great seal of the College as he was installed as New England College of Optometry’s thirteenth president. President Purcell acknowledged the presence of Senator Kennedy at the venue, saying, “Senator Kennedy is known for encouraging others to participate in democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and creating leaders who engage in the civic life of their communities. His vision aligns closely with NECO’s values that include creating optometric leaders who are collaborative, socially responsible, curious and ready to create and innovate.”
President Purcell outlined his strategic priorities for the college to help “prepare today’s optometrists for tomorrow’s optometry.” His vision includes diversifying revenue; nurturing diversity, equity and inclusion; expanding continuing education and specialized degree programs; collaborating with industry; and finding ways to best support and prepare our students for whatever changes may arise. Through this process, he hopes to focus the conversation and the path towards innovation adaptation, finding new pathways to strengthen the profession and the role of the optometrist in vision and healthcare.