The Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Family Foundation announced Thursday it will pledge $50 million to the UC Berkeley School of Optometry, which is the largest gift to be received by an optometry school in the country.
The grant will be used for research programs, funding for graduate students, scholarships and new lab and teaching facilities, according to John Flanagan, dean and professor at Berkeley Optometry.
“There’s also a very important emphasis on scholarships both for our OD professional students and division science Ph.D. students,” Flanagan said. “We are a public university. We want to make sure that everyone can come and these are the sort of scholarships that can enable that to happen.”
In order to honor the gift and Wertheim’s commitment to optometry, Berkeley Optometry will be named the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science, according to the press release.
The investment will also create two new chancellor’s chairs, which will be the Nicole Wertheim Chair in Pediatric Optometry and the Herbert Wertheim Chair in Neuro-Optometry, the press release added.
In addition, the press release stated that the gift will create a nationwide and international plan called Berkeley Vision CURE, which will provide eyeglasses to children in need and establish a new model clinic for children’s vision.
Berkeley Optometry has “big celebrations” planned for 2023, which is when the school will be celebrating 100 years at UC Berkeley, according to Flanagan. He explained the investment will help set up Berkeley Optometry as a professional school for many years to come.
“There’s never been a gift like this in optometry ever, anywhere — not just in Berkeley,” Flanagan said. “The excitement is really setting up our profession for the next 100 years.”
Meng Lin, campus professor of clinical optometry and vision science, noted the gift is geared toward increasing pediatric services and research dedicated to preventive and primary care.
Lin added the gift is “a game changer” and believes the school was given the donation due to its reputation of training leading vision scientists and optometrists.
“This generous donation will also provide necessary resources ensuring that Berkeley Optometry remains at the forefront of education and research to provide its students with unparalleled learning experiences in all vision-care subspecialties,” Lin said in an email.
Flanagan also noted the investment will be used for research on conditions associated with children’s vision, such as myopia, binocular vision and low vision, which are areas of interest to the Wertheims.
Frances Tsai, a Berkeley Optometry student, believes the gift will support innovation in vision science and increase accessibility for vision care.
“(Herbert and Nicole Wertheim’s) generous support to expand our clinical, educational, and research training programs will open many more opportunities for us to grow and develop into stronger clinicians and focus on becoming the best optometrists we can be,” Tsai said in an email.