Each year during the AOA’s national Optometry’s Meeting the College of Optometry hosts an Alumni and Friends reception. This year, Optometry’s Meeting was held in St. Louis during the week of June 19thand we were able to host our reception here on campus on Friday night, June 21st. Coinciding with the theme of the AOA meeting “Meet Me in St. Louis,” the college decided to create a carnival-like setting in the parking lot of the Patient Care Center.
With the carnival theme in place, organizers planned the event which included four area food trucks, Ted Drewes frozen custard, and games. Many of the prizes were donated by various optometric companies in support of the event.
After months of planning, Friday night arrived with the need to move the event indoors due to stormy, hot, and humid St. Louis weather. The event was relocated on the second floor of the Patient Care Center. Director of Student and Alumni Services Nick Palisch was in charge of planning the event but gives credit to all the volunteers who helped transform the room from nothing into an awesome party space. “Without the help of all the volunteers, and especially Kaleigh Albers (’22), the event would not have been as successful. Kaleigh took charge and ensured the space was ready to greet guests as they arrived. Without her, I am not sure the event would have been executed as well,” Palisch said.
Moving the event indoors required a lot of logistical changes, but the large number of volunteers turned the Patient Care Center into a great indoor carnival. Over 200 people attended the event, and many played one of the 12 carnival games, enjoyed pizza, tacos, Italian ice, and chicken wings from the food trucks. The family friendly event also included a recognition of service for Dr. Ed Bennett, who is retiring from the College of Optometry after 37 years.
Many individuals spoke during the ceremony, and ended it with spirits, cake, and Ted Drewes frozen custard. “The event was well attended and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and quite honestly having it inside was probably better in the end,” said Palisch. The event also provided alumni, guests, and friends the opportunity to see the Patient Care Center, many of whom were seeing it for the first time.
The reception and feedback from those in attendance was positive. Dean Larry Davis commented, “Many attending the reception had not previously visited the campus or had not done so in many years. There must have been over 200 guests whose energy filled the room. Reactions were overwhelmingly positive…from ‘love the facility,’ to ‘this is great for UMSL,’ and ‘what a nice send-off for Dr. Bennett.’ I credit Nick Palisch and the teams of staff, students, and faculty who brought it all together.” The college continues to see an increase in attendance at events like these, and that helps to build a relationship with alumni and friends. The next reception will be at the AAO meeting in Orlando, Florida, in October. Come by and say hello if you attend AAO!