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Rochester School of Optometry

Rochester, New York



The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported on school actvities.  The 1910 ad (right) appeared in Optic Age.


B. B. Clark and Dr. A. H. Bowen began an “indeterminate course” of optometry in Rochester in 1902.  A reorganized and state chartered course began for three students in 1909, the first chartered school of optometry in the world.  The two-year course required two years of high school for admission.  In 1910, with only three students enrolled, they were told that they would have to be responsible for their own education. One of the students, Ernest Petry, was appointed instructor and dean. 

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By 1919 enrollment was “more than 100 students.”  Entrance requirements were raised so that a high school diploma was required—including three years of English, a foreign language, algebra, plane geometry, mechanical drawing, history and physiology.  In 1921 Rochester School of Optometry began offering both two-year and three-year programs.  The state of New York required that by 1930 optometry degrees had to come through Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of  Science programs. So in 1926 R.S.O. became associated with the University of Rochester.  Two faculty members—including Dean Petry—became part of the U. of R. faculty, and some equipment was transferred.


Students at Rochester School of Optometry enjoyed an active campus life.  The Student Association (later named the R.S.O. Society) met weekly.  This group planned and administered campus activities.  It sponsored an annual banquet and frequent dances.  The school had an orchestra and a glee club for entertainments and celebrated Homecoming.  Students published a newspaper—the Optic--and a yearbook.  There were chapters of three fraternities, competing for scholastic honors with counterparts from the Mechanics Institute. Each class had a debate team with an annual interclass competition.  By 1924 freshmen were initiated and there was a Flag Rush to insure that freshmen knew their place.


The last graduating class from R.S.O.  was 1928 with 17 graduates.

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Bricks and Mortar

Classes began “in a small room in the Triangle Building" at the corner of East and Main.  In 1914 the school moved to the Mercantile Building also on Main Street.  By 1916 R.S.O. had “outgrown” that location and so moved to the sixth floor of the new Fine Arts Building. In 1918 the school became associated with the Mechanics Institute.  The principal building used there  was the Perkins House at 38 S. Washington Street.  Built around 1840 it was a two-story Greek Revival structure, the former residence of Gilman Perkins, acquired by Mechanics Institute in 1892.  R.S.O occupied the building until 1928.  It later became home to the Rochester Art Center.  It was razed in 1945.

Bevier Memorial Building was located next door to the Perkins House and was also used by R.S.O. for classes and events.  Image by Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)


            School Colors: Purple and White

            Team Name: Purple and White, Optometrists, Oculists


In 1920 the Democrat and Chronicle noted that a football team was to be organized with about thirty candidates responding.  The Student Association began practicing cheers, learning the school song, and participating in daily “Rousers.” Over the next four years R.S.O. teams lined up against the likes of Canisius, Hobart, Niagara, Buffalo, and Albany State, winning one game (against Mechanics Institute).  The 1923 team lost all three games played by scores of 39-0, 40-0, and 69-0.  The school then determined that its enrollment was not sufficient to support a successful program.


In 1917 the Democrat and Chronicle reported that eighteen students were out for baseball and that a schedule was being formed.  But the school soon determined that baseball was not feasible “on account of its proximity to graduation and state examinations.”


The signature sport of R.S.O. became basketball.  Newspapers first reported a team in 1915, and  teams continued to represent the school in 1926.   In addition to games with local teams such as Rochester Business Institute and Mechanics Institute, R.S.O. took on heavyweights such as St. Bonaventure, Niagara, and Canisius.  Basketball games were often social events followed by dances.

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The 1915-16 basketball team won five of twelve games.  Image from the Democrat and Chronicle. 

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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