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Vale Dr Tony Adams – revered academic optometrist ‘will be missed’

University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry has paid tribute to well-known Australian expatriate Dr Tony Adams, who died on 16 July.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr Tony Adams, who died peacefully, with family at his side,” a statement from the school said.

“Tony, who served as dean of Berkeley Optometry from 1992 to 2001, was the quintessential academic optometrist; he confronted and removed barriers, won numerous awards, and served selflessly in positions of leadership.”

Adams completed his training at the University of Melbourne in 1962, served two years as a faculty member at Indiana University, and was then recruited to join the Berkeley faculty in 1968 at the age of 27, where he rose to prominence in both the school and the profession.

Dr Tony Adams when he was dean of the Berkley optometry department. Image: UC Berkley

He won multiple awards and occupied prominent positions, including within the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) where he was elected to the executive board in 1990 before serving as president from 1998-2000. He also served on the editorial board of Optometry and Vision Science and he was appointed Editor-in-Chief (2004-15).

Professor Konrad Pesudovs, formerly foundation chair of Optometry and Vision Science at Flinders University, described Adams as “Australia’s greatest optometrist”.

“To me he was a great mentor and greater friend. Tony always had time for people. I would not have achieved one-tenth of what I have without his wise counsel,” he wrote in an online tribute.

“The most extraordinary thing is that there are hundreds of people who feel like I do; that Tony was always there for us, had time, cared, didn’t judge and gave sage advice. He was a wonderful influence on many people.”

He believed Adams was probably proudest of his leadership: “He was a  great leader for the profession of optometry, not just in his leadership roles at Berkeley and the AAO, but in many fora.”

In 2016, Pesudovs presented the Tony Adams Medal Lecture at Flinders University’s evidence-based optometry conference to Adams, the inaugural recipient of the medal. Adams was famously presented with a chocolate frog in lieu of the medal, which arrived a day late.

“As always Tony took this hiccup in great humour,” Pesudovs recalled.

Adams’ long list of accolades spanning decades include president, AAO (1998-2000); distinguished practitioner, National Academies of Practice in Optometry (1998); and president, National Board of Examiners in Optometry (1985–87).

Dr Tony Adams (left) with his colleague, friend, and fellow Australian Dr Ian Bailey. Image: UC Berkley

He also received honorary doctorates from Indiana University (2011), State University of New York (1999) and Pennsylvania College of Optometry (2001); the Paul Yarwood Memorial Award (2003); Prentice Medal (2003) and Eminent Service Award (2004), American Academy of Optometry; California Optometry Educator of the Year (2004); National Optometry Hall of Fame (2004); president, American Optometric Foundation (2008); and the American Academy of Optometry Life Fellowship Award (2016).

Optometry Australia awarded him Clinical and Experimental Optometry’s H. B. Collin Research Medal in 2012.

In 2014 he was inducted into the Berkeley Optometry Hall of Fame, and last year he received the inaugural UC Berkeley School of Optometry Tony Adams Lifetime Achievement Award for his “impressive, important and enduring accomplishments” to the school and the profession.

“Tony’s influence was extraordinary. He, along with his life partner Elna, who passed earlier this year, mentored and inspired generations of students, academics, future leaders and change makers. He will be missed,” a statement from Berkeley School of Optometry said.

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