Dr. Henry, faculty, students, staff, family members, and honored guests.
Today is a bittersweet occasion for me as I bid farewell to this fine institution and to many valued colleagues, students, and friends.
Let me begin by saying how proud I am of your many achievements during the six years of my tenure. Through the combined outstanding effort of our faculty, administration, students and staff we have worked together to strengthen the College for today and for decades to come.
Together, we have created a new culture at ICO. It is a culture that encourages innovation and creativity; it recognizes personal initiative as well as individual and collective accountability. It calls for improved outcomes and heightened productivity. It is a culture that demands we be models of ethical behavior and integrity. A culture committed to growth and improvement.
Avenues of dialogue among all ICO constituencies have been opened. Faculty, staff, and students are positively engaged in strengthening the institution. As the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education stated during their visit to our campus earlier this year “a commitment to excellence was evident at all levels of the institution.” It was clear to the Accreditation Council, as it has been clear to me, that you are always reaching for the next level – not satisfied with second best. You have much to be proud of.
I would like to highlight the extraordinary achievements of our years together as well as share the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
First to Dean Scharre and the entire ICO faculty, I extend my sincerest appreciation for your tireless commitment to excellence in securing the College’s legacy for the future. Your contributions to our academic culture have been enormous and far-reaching.
In the past six years, the College has undergone three major accreditation reviews while five residency programs were evaluated. In all cases, the strength of ICO’s academic and clinical programs was reaffirmed by external reviewers. For example:
- Performance of ICO Students on the National Board of Optometry examinations is the best ever.
- The student externship program was expanded from just 9 sites to 144, providing over 160,000 additional clinical teaching encounters.
- Individual student’s clinical encounters increased from 500 to over 1260 by graduation.
- The IEI census increased by 47% providing 70,000 clinical encounters each year.
- Faculty scholarly presentations, publications, and grant submissions are at an all-time high.
- ICO’s affiliation with the University of Chicago’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science was developed. This relationship has continued to succeed both academically and clinically.
- Faculty membership in the American Academy of Optometry increased from 48% to 92%.
- Student retention rate reached an all-time high of nearly 99%.
- Students on the Deans list increased to over 50% for some classes.
- We initiated several research projects at the College’s new small animal research lab.
- Faculty governance was strengthened to include a voting member on the Board of Trustees.
Thanks to our administrators and staff, ICO continues to function from a strong financial and operational position. You, too, should be proud of your many achievements, as follows:
- A strategic and tactical planning process was implemented which is open, consultative and collaborative, employing a performance-based monitoring of progress. The plan is actively employed in the management of the institution.
- Student tuition was frozen for four years, helping to control student debt, and scholarships were increased. The work study program was doubled in size.
- ICO has been approved as a participating lender in the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which will result in projected annual revenue of $735,000 for FY2003.
- We successfully restructured the College’s overall debt by issuing $45 million in variable rate tax exempt bonds.
- ICO investment assets increased by $6.7 million, despite a serious downturn in the stock market.
- IEI patient services revenue increased 59%.
- We completed the IEI construction project in addition to $8.5 million in physical plant, equipment and information systems technology improvements.
To the student body, I wish to commend you on your many contributions to the College and profession.
- ICO students’ participation in scholarship and leadership activities at AOSA, Academy and AOA meetings has been most impressive.
- Students continue to play an exemplary role in supporting neighborhood community service programs, the VOSH program, and Special and Junior Olympics.
- Students initiated a campaign to raise scholarship funds through their annual golf outing.
- The student representatives to the Board of Trustees, until recently Mr. Steinmetz and now Ms. McCann, have participated in Board activities with poise, dedication and professionalism.
- Student participation in the College’s Annual Play and International Night reflects a spirit of enthusiasm and pride.
Governance has grown ever stronger through the Board of Trustees efforts to increase its size and diversity.
- We continue to build a productive, solid relationship with our neighbors through our Community Advisory Board.
- We have strengthened our outreach and built better relationships with other health care professionals and community organizations.
The Illinois Eye Institute with its outstanding administrators, faculty, and staff has made outstanding progress in the past six years. Patient satisfaction at IEI is at an all-time high as measured by external surveys.
In particular, I want to acknowledge the very successful Vision of Hope program, which provides eye care to the uninsured and underinsured citizens of Illinois. Initially launched with a $250,000 grant from the Illinois State Legislature, we added private foundation grants and additional state support. Already we count this program among our most successful endeavors. Of the 1,700 patients examined, more than 70% exhibit some type of untreated serious eye condition.
We also completed a comprehensive review and reorganization of our Institutional Advancement office. We reenergized the College’s development, alumni affairs and public relations programs. Results have been most encouraging.
These are the accomplishments we can feel proud of, but the picture would be incomplete without noting the challenges which lie ahead.
- Meet the challenge of continued program growth as projected in our “Commitment to Excellence” strategic plan, while facing uncertain stock market conditions, a slowing economy and a decrease in the student applicant pool.
- Continue our commitment to recruitment and admittance of the most qualified students during the current applicant decline.
- Maintain tuition at a competitive level, while ensuring the availability of scholarship funds.
- Continue to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and staff.
- Keep pace with the changing regulatory standards imposed on health care and research institutions.
- And implement an institutional compliance plan and comprehensive risk assessment program.
But with these challenges come numerous opportunities. These include the potential to:
- Increase Illinois State appropriation to ICO.
- Increase the number of state contracts to support out of state student tuition.
- Qualify for Federal Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding for student clinical training.
- Build investment assets “endowments” by increasing gifts from alumni, friends, and foundations.
- Implement a Faculty Group Practice Plan in order to reduce the cost of clinical education, increase faculty income and enhance faculty retention.
- Strengthen the College’s research infrastructure.
- Secure additional grant funding for the clinical care of indigent patients.
- Establish an ambulatory ophthalmic surgi-center in partnership with the University of Chicago and qualify for Part A Medicare reimbursement.
- Achieve accreditation from the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) for the Illinois Eye Institute and proposed ambulatory surgi-center.
Now I would like to turn to many well deserved “thank yous”
Let me first thank the members of our outstanding faculty and ICO’s dedicated Academic Administration.
Also, I personally appreciate the support and always constructive approach of the Faculty Executive Committee.
I would like to recognize and further encourage the excellent cooperation and support of the student leadership. The Student Association goes to great effort to help us maintain a positive professional and social culture at ICO. The student body deserves much credit for the dedication and pride they bring to the pursuit of academic and clinical excellence.
I would also like to thank the many Operating Units of the College for the support they provide the faculty, students and administration.
The Office of Student Affairs has again been successful in recruiting academically gifted women and men to ICO. The office has also done an outstanding job to maintain a positive and supportive culture for our student body and has set a high standard for student services.
The Student Financial Services Office has again efficiently assisted our students in obtaining funds necessary to make their optometric education possible, simplifying loan processing.
Institutional Advancement has enhanced and supported fund raising efforts through the offices of Development, Alumni Affairs, and Public Relations.
Through the efforts of Human Resources staff, the College and the Eye Institute attract talented faculty and dedicated staff. They help ensure our environment is fair, friendly, and productive.
The Business Office continues to achieve a high level of operational efficiency and assists other College units in a professional and responsive manner.
Information Systems Staff completed the 22 major technology projects including the most sophisticated library system. A Faculty Technology center was developed to facilitate the use of advanced technology in teaching.
The Facilities Staff always does an outstanding job in maintaining one of the finest campuses in health professions education.
We would not achieve our goals without the uncompromising services and dedication from the Library, Registrar, Instructional Media, Biomedical Services, Institutional Health, Academic Support, Fitness Center, Food Services, Security, Mailroom and Bookstore. Thank you all for a job well done.
A special thanks to the alumni for serving as role models for our students through your success, and dedication to patients and the profession. Your role in identifying talented students for admission to ICO is greatly appreciated.
I would also like to thank our Alumni Council for their outstanding leadership. The Alumni Council plays a significant role as the College’s representatives to the Alumni. The Illinois Optometric Association has provided invaluable support the past six years.
A note of appreciation to my office staff for their loyalty and dedication.
Thank you to all of ICO’s partners – attorneys, accountants, bankers, and vendors for your excellent service and support to the College.
And finally, I would like to recognize Chairman Lawless and the Board of Trustees for providing the leadership the College requires to achieve our Commitment to Excellence goals. Thank you for your time, dedication and generous financial support.
ICO has a history and tradition that will guide the College through the future fulfillment of its mission – the pursuit of excellence in health care education, patient care, scholarly activity; and the development of leaders for the profession and society.
Yes, we’ve had an extraordinary six years together. ICO has an extraordinary future ahead as it continues in the pursuit of excellence. It is through your leadership that we will be able to continue ICO’s dramatic progress and to face the challenges that are ahead with determination and optimism.
As I stated in my inaugural speech in 1997. I was both humbled and honored to be appointed President of ICO. I only hope you are as proud as I am of the strength and integrity of this institution as well as its opportunities and hopes for the future.
Also, I stated that the measure I would use to judge our years together would not be what we have gained but what we have given to others. But I never envisioned the gifts that I personally would receive through these six years.
- The loyalty and support provided to me by my colleagues and of all those with whom I have worked.
- The trust that I put in our mutual vision is now not a dream but a reality, based on measured success and the evaluation of others.
These gifts are greatest of all. I strongly believe the last six years has changed ICO for the better, and changed each of us for the better. These gifts are invaluable treasures that we take on our respective journeys.
I had the opportunity to recently brief President-designate Augsburger on the State of the Institution. I am confident that he will not only sustain the excellence we have built, but will lead the institution to even greater levels of achievement.
Finally I would like to conclude my farewell address with an expression I have not used in over 40 years. As a young naval officer, on the bridge of the Radar Picket Ship Searcher underway in the North Atlantic, it was customary to brief the oncoming watch officer with the ship’s course, speed, position as well as other important data. And once he nodded his understanding of the status of the ship, I would render a snappy salute and say – Sir, I stand relieved!
Charles F. Mullen, O.D.
Presidential Farewell Address
Illinois College of Optometry
September 13, 2002