Alumni Spotlight - Class of 1991

Classmates give back to the Seeing Beyond 2020 Campaign, bringing benefits to Canada and beyond

By: Landon Jennings, Senior Development Officer, Optometry and Vision Science

We recently caught up with former classmates, Susan, “Sue” Beaton (OD 91’), Patricia, “Trish” Campbell (OD 91’) and Andrea Mierzynski (OD 91’) and asked them to reflect on their experience as Optometry students, and why they choose to work with us as class rep volunteers for the Seeing Beyond 2020 campaign.

A group of smiling alums pointing to a UWOVS sign

Seeing Beyond 2020 is a $35-million campaign that will support the creation of the Waterloo Eye Institute (WEI), Canada’s leading eye and vision care center of excellence.  The campaign leverages the globally recognized expertise of our faculty and the power of Canada’s most innovative university to create something unique and forward-thinking. It includes the creation of a state-of the-art vision care education, research, and clinical facility, two frontier research centers in biomedical sciences and ocular imaging, that will promote patient-centered, collaborative health care, education, and research.

Memories from the optometry program

Sue, Trish, and Andrea all have fond memories of their experiences at the University of Waterloo in the Optometry program and stayed connected as alumni.  

As the only English-speaking optometry school in Canada, and an interest in “eye-balls”, the three former classmates were happy when they were accepted into the small program of only 60 students at the time.

Although all three alums mentioned the friendly professors, closeness of classmates, and great facilities as part of their fond experience, like most students, Sue, Trish, and Andrea’s fond memories of the program stem from their student experience. “Optometry was such a small faculty that it was impossible not to partake in activities,” said Trish. “We spent a lot of time together both inside and outside of class” added Sue. “There were plenty of fun activities outside of our hard work. Skit nights, wine and cheese parties and curling are just to name a few!”

Nevertheless, hard work paid off for these former classmates as they have all taken the skills they learned at the School of Optometry & Vision Science and developed successful practices. Now they are in the semi, or near retirement stage, and want to give back to the profession and the school where it all began.

Class rep volunteer role and successes

All three of the folks choose to give their time as a class rep volunteer, to help engage their former classmates in the campaign. As expressed by Sue, “After receiving so much from UW, it was an easy decision to give back.”

Approached during the initial phases of the campaign, it is exciting for the alums to see the wonderful progress so far. For both Andrea and Trish, it has been amazing to see the campaign go from the planning phase to reality. “The campaign was still in the infancy phase when I was first approached, so it has been exciting to see it all coming together and the energy build!” said Trish.

These alums are championing this role, as part of a network of several other volunteers who are donating their time and/or money to help bring the WEI to reality. The role has evolved and changed the nature of the campaign by increasing momentum and encouraging others to give through peer-to-peer communications.

Part of success with the class campaigns has come from the 100% participation motto and give what you can. “As part of giving back, our motto was to get 100% participation from all classmates. When I started contacting former classmates, I presented very flexible giving options. This made donors feel like their contribution, no matter how big or small, was making a significant difference by pooling resources with peers. I think this has been critical to our success so far!”, said Andrea.

So far, the class of 1991 has raised $100,000 in pooled resources and is working towards naming a space in the new building. “It is inspiring that we can raise funds and pool our money together to leave a legacy in the WEI,” said Andrea. “We are elated and proud of what has been accomplished and hope to continue to challenge other classes to give back what they can to continue the momentum!”.

Impact of the WEI

From research, to collaboration, and enhanced education, Sue, Trish, and Andrea all believe the WEI will have a great impact on the profession, Canada and beyond. For most of the volunteers like these alums, they find the work to be easy and inspiring.

“It is difficult to imagine that former classmates would not want to donate once they see the depth of the project and what it can do for the profession and the future of healthcare” exclaimed Trish. “This is such a worthwhile project for all of Canada and beyond”, added Sue. “The new research centers will lead to significant improvements in eye care and the collaborative clinical care and education will do the same. We will all reap the benefits, even as patients ourselves.”

Overall, by being involved with WEI, Sue, Trish and Andrea believe that they can show the entire healthcare community how important vision care is and know the project will benefit Canada and beyond. “Regardless of where you live, or where you practice, we [Optometrists] are a critical part of the healthcare system...the entire healthcare system will see the benefit of WE!” said Trish.

Class rep challenge

The goal for the campaign class reps is to help raise $5-million dollars from the profession in the next two years.

“Most of us benefited greatly from our education and careers, and now is our chance to give back to WEI so that the next generation of students and patients can have the tools and care they need to succeed,” said Andrea. “Now is your chance to do something about people who struggle with vision or eye problems, as the potential from this multi-faced project will be exponential overtime” added Trish.

With this, the class of 1991 challenges all alumni to join the campaign and help us solve the vision crisis in Canada and beyond. “The more collaboration we have, the sooner WEI will be a reality!”.

We are so thankful for the time, generosity, and enthusiasm these alumni have about the Seeing Beyond 2020 campaign and hope their messages extend to our community and alumni to encourage generosity and help us bring the WEI vision to fruition.

If you want to get involved and become a class rep volunteer, please contact Landon Jennings, Senior Development Officer. Donate now