The College of Optometry Classes of 2014, 2009, and 1999 had their 5, 10, and 20-year reunions coinciding with Optometry’s Meeting.  All three classes had an excellent turnout, providing yet another benefit to having Optometry’s Meeting in St. Louis in year.

For the Class of 1999, it was the opportunity to have a reunion dinner at a classmate’s house, which was very well attended, followed by chance to see the new Patient Care Center and enjoy a Cardinals game.  The reunion was planned by Susan Rollenhagen OD (’99) and it was a reunion in every sense of the word as she comments: “Thirteen members of the UMSL School of Optometry Class of 1999 gathered at Rick G’Sell’s house in St. Louis, MO for their 20-year reunion.  Some of the crew attended education at the Optometry’s Meeting while others enjoyed seeing how the city of St. Louis had changed in the past 20 years.  All had a great time reminiscing about the old times and the beginning of the friendships that will last a lifetime.  A highlight was touring the new optometry clinic and seeing some professors they had while in school, as well as attending a Cardinals game.  It was so special seeing everyone again and catching up on families and jobs and seeing where life took everyone after graduation 20 years ago.”For Maureen Finch, OD (’99) it was an opportunity to turn back time: “Ever want to travel back in time? That’s what it felt like on a magical day and evening with classmates from my class of ’99!  Some of us attended Optometry’s Meeting and even sat in lectures with each other. That evening was the Alumni and Friends Reception at the UMSL Patient Care Center, where we toured the beautiful new clinic and enjoyed games and food. Next was a nostalgic walk through Marillac Hall remembering the good ol’ times. A reunion get-together at the home of Rick G’Sell, OD (’99) capped off the night toasting 20 years and those classmates who were unable to be with us.” David Prange, OD (’99), in particular, was very impressed by the new facility. “We enjoyed seeing the amazing new facilities at the University Eye Center, and took a moment to get a peek at the changes to Marillac Hall, reminiscing about our times in the pre-clinic.”  Neha Amin LaCorte, OD (’99) commented, “I am so grateful that Susan Rollenhagen worked so hard to make our reunion happen.   It is unfathomable to me we graduated 20 years ago, but we did.  Being able to tour the new clinic and classrooms was a real treat.   The facility is so modern and state of the art, we were impressed.  We also snuck in a peek at our old rooms, which brought back memories for all of us.   It seemed like yesterday that we were trying to do BIO on each other for the first time. It was a bonus to join in the celebration for Dr. Bennett’s retirement.  We plan not to wait ten years for our next reunion and are so happy to see how well our alma mater is doing.”

The Class of 2009, always known for being very close and often making efforts to reunite, also made Optometry’s Meeting a focal point for a well-planned reunion.  They had numerous organized social events, both associated and not associated with Optometry’s Meeting.  They came from as far south as Florida to enjoy each other’s company and reminisce as Jeff Harter, OD (’09) explained: “We were fortunate that so many of us were able to get together from all over the country for various reunion events and continuing education. We had several days of social events over the week, but one of the highlights was on Friday, where we were able to tour the new UMSL clinic as well as wish Dr. Bennett a happy retirement. Our class has stayed close throughout the years, and we are already looking forward to our next reunion!” Kevin Biermann, OD (’09) agreed: “It was so great being able to catch up with classmates and other UMSL alumni. Especially those I hadn’t seen in 10 years. UMSL has a great way of making classmates feel like family and after 10 years away, we didn’t skip a beat. I really hope we can see each other more often. “For Amanda Brenci, OD (’09), it was well worth making the trip from Florida: “I loved hearing about where everyone ended up after graduation and us how we are all in different practice settings. There were many conversations about balancing work and family! Mostly it was just great to reminisce about our time together at UMSL! Our class was close, and we picked up right where we left off!”

In actual numbers, however, the Class of 2014 may have been best represented, included having no less than 15 members at the alumni reception on Friday night.  It was five years ago, but it seems like yesterday for Ashley Torreano, OD, (’14): “Having my classmates back together for Optometry’s Meeting this year was like bringing the long-lost family back together. Five years ago, we were more than classmates, and that fondness hasn’t diminished at all. It means the world to me to have a group of friends that can pick back up immediately as if we hadn’t been apart a day. Seeing everyone’s kids, spouses, and—in some cases—even parents was an invaluable experience. I love that we were able to get together and reminisce and laugh together again. My UMSL family was the best gift of my education.” Emily Pike, OD, (’14) agreed: “While lots of continuing education filled our days, we still had plenty of time to catch up, partake in some great food and drink, and enjoy each other’s company. Some highlights included watching a Cardinals game, touring the new clinic building and being present to celebrate Dr. Bennett’s retirement.” And it was an opportunity to showcase one of the great benefits of the College of Optometry: a family atmosphere aided, in part, by a small class size as Courtney Kwan, OD, (’14) commented: “It was wonderful to catch up with nearly half of my classmates since our graduation in 2014 during Optometry’s Meeting in St. Louis. So much has changed from marriages and children to where we all live and practice, but the friendships have remained the same. Having a small class size is the best part of attending UMSL!”

The reunions were not just limited to the Classes of 1999 and 2009. Five members of UMSL’s first graduating class of 1984 – Drs. Rex Newcomb, Steve Barnett, Joe Stroeker, Lynn Herndon, and Shelton Sago – recently celebrated a mini 35th-year reunion. They have forged an ongoing friendship which has resulted in an annual fishing trip to Table Rock Lake near Branson. Steve Barnett, OD (’84) said, “Lots of fun getting together with some of the guys from our class of 84. We have been doing this for 35 years now. It is a testament to developing life-long friendships while in Optometry School.”