Two years after its groundbreaking, Ferris State University’s new Michigan College of Optometry building was formally dedicated Wednesday, June 8, in an afternoon ceremony featuring past and present university officials, representatives of professional optometric organizations, and spokespersons for the project’s design and construction firms.
Addressing a large audience outside of the new building at the corner of State Street and Ferris Drive in Big Rapids, event speakers celebrated the state-of-the-art building and over two decades of hard work and anticipation that had led up to the moment.
“This project has required strong, committed efforts over many, many years,” said Ferris President David L. Eisler. “In many ways, this building is a symbol to the tenacity of our university and its people, who refuse to be discouraged and continue to work until dreams are transformed into reality.”
The facility houses the University Eye Center, classrooms, pre-clinical practice spaces, faculty offices and research labs. The center features easy, first-floor access to patient consultation and procedure rooms, as well as pediatric optometry and low vision rehabilitation environments, a full eyeglass and contact lens dispensary, and a wellness clinic in collaboration with Ferris’ Pharmacy and Nursing programs.
“It’s a beautiful structure from the outside,” said Dr. Michael T. Cron, MCO dean. “But, most significantly, it’s a highly functional structure from the inside, aimed directly at helping MCO achieve its mission to educate students to be the best optometrists they can possibly be and to provide top notch eye and vision care to our patients.”
The highlight of the building’s instructional spaces is the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Interactive Eye Learning Center, innovatively designed as both a lecture and practice exam amphitheater. With a series of optometry chairs arrayed at the back of the space and separated by privacy dividers, the “Dow Room” allows an instructor to guide multiple students during eye exams practiced on classmates.
Former MCO Dean Dr. Kevin L. Alexander, now president of Southern California College of Optometry, also spoke at the ceremony. Alexander, who worked extensively to promote the project during his tenure from 2000 to 2008, described his experience upon entering the new facility.
“I have to admit, I had a tear in my eye when I walked in the door because it’s more than I ever envisioned,” he said.
Neumann/Smith Architecture of Southfield and Clark Construction of Lansing helped the project’s planning committee realize the building’s 86,104 square feet of elegant and functional design, which, according to its planners, use many energy-efficient lighting, air handling and other features hoped to earn it a silver or gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating. Ninety-eight percent of the building project’s waste was recycled, and 85 percent recycled materials were used in construction.
“I am reminded that this project was completed in 14 months – and brought in on time and under budget,” said Eisler, introducing Neumann/Smith partner Joel Smith and Clark Construction executive vice president Kenneth Lawless.
Lawless, a 1978 alumnus of Ferris’ College of Business, added, “If you look at the core values for the university, they talk about collaboration. You cannot build a project like this without collaboration from all of the partners.”
Ferris and the MCO are responsible for 25 percent, or $6,725,000, of the total cost of $26.9 million and have raised more than $1,365,000 to date, including a million-dollar gift from the Dow Foundation. The state of Michigan will fund the remaining three quarters of the cost, or $20,175,000.
University officials have stated that the high quality of the new facility and its enhanced resources are expected to draw exceptionally qualified faculty and students from around the nation, and to make the site a destination for continuing education events for vision care professionals. Additionally, MCO administrators anticipate that the new ease of access to the University Eye Center and its improved exam and procedure spaces will increase patient encounters by 5,000 annually, from a previous average of more than 19,450 per year to at least 24,450.
“In the future, optometry will be on the front line of health care,” said Dr. Joe Ellis, president of the American Optometric Association. “The optometric education that this fine facility will accommodate will provide the structure to carry our optometric students into the future.”
The facility has been in use since its completion for the start of spring semester
on Jan. 10. MCO is Michigan’s first and only college of optometry, established at
Ferris in 1975. The college’s initial home was in the West Building, at 330 Oak Street,
near the Alumni Building. In 1977, the MCO relocated to Pennock Hall, a repurposed
student residence hall on Cramer Circle. Pennock, built in 1968, is slated for demolition
later this month. A Web cam of the demolition is accessible from the Ferris website
“The future of optometry is bright in Michigan,” said Dr. Lillian Kalaczinski, president of the Michigan Optometric Association and 1998 MCO alumna. “Finally, our facility reflects the quality of the education that graduates of this university receive.”
Completion of the project – a life’s work for many MCO faculty and staff – marks a new era in the health care sciences at Ferris State. Recent additions and partnerships have given the university sites for health care studies and practice statewide.
“My colleagues and I look forward to the capacity to build greater public appreciation
for the MCO’s outstanding teaching and service across Michigan and the United States,
and in having Ferris serve as a model for collaborative, inter-professional health
education.” said Ferris Board of Trustees chair Ronald E. Snead, who also thanked
State Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) and former State Sen. Michelle McManus for their
support of the
The Michigan College of Optometry prepares doctoral and post-doctoral students for successful professional careers, responsible citizenship and lifelong learning. Through its clinically based education and patient care, the MCO serves the optometric health care needs of society. For more information on MCO, visit www.ferris.edu/mco.
Ferris State University is a four-year public university with campuses in Big Rapids, Grand Rapids and satellite campuses across the state. Ferris offers more than 180 educational programs, including doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees, through nine academic colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, MCO, Pharmacy, Engineering Technology, Kendall College of Art and Design, and the College of Professional and Technological Studies. Ferris also has a University College that provides students with instruction in study skills, reading, career exploration and features an Honors program.
Founded in 1884 by educator, Michigan Gov. and U.S. Sen. Woodbridge N. Ferris, the university’s mission is to prepare students for successful careers, responsible citizenship and lifelong learning. Through its many partnerships and its career-oriented, broad-based education, Ferris serves our rapidly changing global economy and society.