Dean Larry Davis has been around for a while, and most of his professional career has been spent right here at UMSL Optometry. In July 2018, Dean Davis celebrated 25 years of service to the College of Optometry and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
His career with UMSL began in July 1987, when he became the Contact Lens Resident and Assistant Clinical Professor. From September 1988 until July 1993, he worked as an Adjunct Assistant Professor, before moving into the position of Assistant Professor of Optometry. Dean Davis held this title until June 1999, when he became an Associate Professor of Optometry.
In April 2000, Dean Davis took on a new role aside from teaching—he moved into the administrative role as acting Dean of the School of Optometry. In August 2000, his title changed again to Interim Dean of the School of Optometry. He served as the Interim Dean for nearly two years before becoming the Dean of the College of Optometry in July 2002.
Dean Davis is now the longest-serving Dean in the College’s history. During his career with UMSL, he has earned tenure, taught various courses within the curriculum, conducted contact lens research, and cared for patients in the clinics (a task he still does as Dean).
The role of a Dean is stressful and means a lot of meetings, networking, alumni events, and even securing donations— especially for the new Patient Care Center that opened in fall of 2016. Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments of Dean Davis’s career at UMSL has been the opening of the Patient Care Center. When asked, he reflected, “The biggest accomplishment would probably be learning patience, because it is not something that comes naturally. Patience is necessary for thoughtful and collaborative planning and execution. Patience allows us to contemplate alternate plans when necessary. I recall with fondness the many times when we worked together on initiatives critically important to the success of the college.”
A vision that lingered in his mind for many years became a reality after jumping over many hurdles. Chancellor Tom George commented, “Dean Larry Davis has been an outstanding leader for our College of Optometry. In addition to developing and nurturing programs, which effectively combine excellent fundamental teaching and research with the very best clinical experiences, the college serves both our students and the external community. Of particular note is his leading the successful effort to construct the new Patient Care Center which provides state-of-the-art facilities and superb programs in eye care.” Dean Davis remarked, “There are certainly milestone events that serve as reminders of those collective accomplishments such as, my first accreditation self-study and very successful site visit as dean, celebrating improved student achievement, expanding the college endowment accounts, advancing critical improvements to Marillac Hall and the most visible change, the new Patient Care Center.” Most of those who choose optometry as a profession remain in it until they retire, and Dean Davis believes, “Optometry is the best profession in the world. Health Care is undergoing tremendous change. Many of those changes are driven by technology. Optometry is in a very good position to make a positive impact…limited only by imagination and commitment.”
Long-time faculty member Dr. Vinita Henry has been around the Dean for most of her professional life, but she has watched the college grow and improve each year. “After 30+ years of being in a “temporary clinic,” in 2016 the College of Optometry finally had the Patient Care Center designed for our needs,” commented Henry. Being the dean of any college is difficult, and having watched the campus go through ups and downs, he remained focused on keeping the College of Optometry afloat and a program that prospective students want to attend. “Through fiscal responsibility, innovative thinking and planning, Dr. Davis led the program to make this dream, a reality. He reached out to our students and they enthusiastically supported this building by increasing their fees, when support outside our college was lacking,” Henry said. Today the college continues to grow through quality students, new faculty and staff, full accreditation, and patient care at three care centers operated by the college.
Dean Davis continues to thrive and grow at the College of Optometry, perhaps with a bit more gray hair then when he started 25 years ago, but his vision never became clouded. “Enriching Lives Through Vision” is what he has lived by the past quarter of a century to promote the College of Optometry at UMSL.
Cheers to another 25 years, Dean Davis!