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Remembering SCCO professor emeritus Dr. Walter Chase

May 3, 2012

Walter Chase, O.D., professor emeritus at the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) passed away Feb. 27, 2011, after a lengthy struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Chase served as a faculty member from 1966 to 2004 and was a gifted teacher; his primary interests were ocular motility and optics of the eye.

In addition, he served in numerous capacities with the American Academy of Optometry (AAO).

At the time of his retirement, the college established an endowment, the Dr. Walter Chase Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, thanks to contributions from colleagues and the Chase family.

“Having Walter Chase as a part of the SCCO faculty for 38 years has been a privilege and an honor as he was a beloved friend, colleague and a true gentleman,” said Morris S. Berman, O.D., the college’s vice president and dean of academic affairs.

Dr. Chase completed his pre-med education at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., and matriculated to the optometry program at Indiana University.

Always a serious student, after receiving his optometry degree, Dr. Chase decided to continue on to graduate school where he became a teaching assistant in the university’s computing center.

“It was an exciting time for this graduate student as the IBM computer there was the most powerful in the country at that time,” Dr. Berman noted. “Eventually he was asked to teach a course in FORTRAN to university scientists and realized that teaching would be a significant part of his future. Walt’s master’s thesis was on building clinical data bases for computer studies. Though common now, this was a pioneering achievement in the early 1960s.”

Dr. Chase’s academic career was spent entirely at the SCCO where he taught many courses, including optics, visual psychophysics, sensory vision and professional ethics.

“This very gifted man was much beloved by colleagues and students, winning the accolade SCCO Teacher of the Year on several occasions,” Dr. Berman recalled. “Over the years he generously contributed his time on numerous committees.”

In an administrative capacity, Dr. Chase served as chair of the SCCO Department of Basic and Visual Science (1972-78), president of the SCCO Faculty Council, the college’s director of research (1968-78), and its grants coordinator (1988-89).

“All these responsibilities enabled him to play a meaningful role in governance at the college. His experience and wisdom as a committee member was always valued by those who worked closely with him,” Dr. Berman said.

Dr. Chase achieved membership in numerous professional organizations and was most proud of his association with the AAO.

Among his most significant accomplishments was the production of a videotape series for the AAO’s “Living History” program.

“This series was recorded from 1988 to 1992 and contains invaluable historical perspectives of many of the Academy leaders who have helped shape the profession over the past 50 years,” Dr. Berman said.

Contributions in memory of Dr. Chase for the Dr. Walter Chase Faculty Teaching Excellence fund can be sent to:
Office of Advancement
Southern California College of Optometry
2575 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831

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