Celebrating a Legend
Alfred A. Rosenbloom, Jr., OD ‘48, MA, DOS, dean of Illinois College of Optometry from 1955 to 1971, and president from 1972 to 1982, died at the age of 94 on Monday, April 7th. For more than 50 years, Dr. Rosenbloom served as a teacher and administrator to thousands of students; mentor to alumni, faculty and colleagues; and skilled practitioner, improving the vision of countless patients.
His legacy continues with the establishment of the Alfred and Sarah Rosenbloom Center on Vision and Aging at the Illinois Eye Institute. He and his wife Sarah saw their long-held dream become a reality in January 2015 with the grand opening of the Rosenbloom Center, established to provide eye care services for the aging population.
Dr. Rosenbloom’s interest in optometry began when he was serving in the military at Fort Stewart, Ga., which was then known as Camp Stewart. He became friends there with the two optometrists on staff at the regional hospital, and soon caught their excitement for the profession. He attended school on the GI bill after his discharge, and graduated from ICO in 1948.
From there, he built a career that eventually made him a pioneer in low-vision rehabilitation. At the birth of the Chicago Lighthouse Low Vision Clinic in 1954 – now the oldest in the nation – he met legendary teacher Helen Keller, who dedicated the building housing the clinic and was given her first exposure to its low vision devices.
Of the many things he has accomplished in his storied career, Dr. Rosenbloom said interacting with young optometry students and helping to shape their future is what gave him the most satisfaction.
In 1978, the student body presented him with an award marking his 30-year anniversary at ICO. The inscription read, “In appreciation for the 30 years of dedication and faithful service given to the students and faculty of the College, the ICO Student Association presents this award to Dr. Alfred A. Rosenbloom as a token of the high esteem in which he is held by all who have benefitted by his inspired leadership, wisdom and knowledge.” Dr. Rosenbloom counted that award among his most prized possessions.
He also received the ICO Student Council Distinguished Service Award twice and received an honorary doctorate from ICO in 1954 at the behest of students who went straight to the president of the board of trustees to ask that he be given that honor. ICO’s 1982 yearbook also was dedicated to him.
Dr. Rosenbloom’s role in optometry, both as an educator and a leader, has been recognized numerous times. Dr. Rosenbloom was inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame, named Optometrist of the Year by the Illinois Optometric Association, received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Optometric Association, and was given the Ambrose M. Shotwell Memorial Award from the National Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. He also received a plaque from President Clinton, congratulating him on receiving the Beacon of Excellence Award from the Chicago Lighthouse.
He also participated in more than 25 missions with the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), which provides free eye exams and eyeglasses to individuals in foreign countries. He was a past president of VOSH, and established low vision clinics in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Nepal. In 2007, Dr. Rosenbloom was recognized for his contributions as VOSH/International’s Humanitarian of the Year.