Q: What is your GPLI origination story?
A: It all started in 1984 when I was at a clinical investigators meeting at Paragon Vision Science in Arizona. Frank Fontana was going around to people at dinner talking up a new organization which was later termed the RGP Lens Institute. I was asked to be to be in charge of workshops, which I handled for several major meetings while the RGPLI had several short-term directors and while also going under the direction of the Contact Lens Manufacturers Association. In late 1987 I was asked to go to Berkeley to film the first of a library of videos on GP evaluation, fitting, and problem-solving. I had the privilege of working with CLMA President Carl Moore and contact lens icon Dr. Robert Mandell. Boy, was that fun! When the filming was completed, Carl took me to the airport and on the way indicated that the CLMA would like me to be the Executive Director of the RGPLI. I responded that I just didn’t feel like I could handle such a huge and important endeavor. Carl responded, “Ed, I don’t think you understand. If you don’t accept this position, I will drop you off on the side of the highway and you will have to hitchhike to the airport.” So, I accepted his offer, which, quite simply is the greatest professional decision I’ve ever made.
Q: What is your favorite part of working for this organization?
A: It’s the people I have the privilege of working with. For almost 35 years, I’ve had a very supportive CLMA Board of Directors and many exceptional CLMA Presidents, not to mention a very dedicated and supportive Administrative Director in Pam Witham. Today, I report to an exceptional and supportive GPLI Board of Directors who are great to work with. Our GPLI Advisory Board is comprised of many of the greatest specialty lens professionals and scholars in our field. As I’m definitely not an innovative person, these are the individuals who originate the ideas for most of our resources and programs, and I’m very proud of them. Today we involve our cornea and contact lens residents and former residents in advisory capacities as well and benefit greatly from their assistance. Secondly, I enjoy the opportunity to be involved with an organization that develops programs and resources that can make a difference in both eye care professional (ECP) and student education. To that end, the efforts of Ursula Lotzkat and Wink Productions has been very significant. Likewise, the hiring of Marketing and Development Coordinator Beth Anderzhon has had a very positive impact on all programs we are associated with.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I’m on a mission to learn how to play golf, but it is most certainly a work in progress. Jean and I did build a home in Florida in a golf community, so I have no choice. That said, every time we play with other people, I know exactly what they are thinking: “Jean sure has a nice swing…and Ed appears to be a nice guy.”
Q: What are you proud of in your life?
A: My life has been a series of very lucky breaks. I’ve been very fortunate. I’m proud of my wife and my family, and I’m very proud to be associated with many of the most knowledgeable individuals in the contact lens profession who don’t hesitate to give time to help in the specialty contact lens education of students and ECPs.
Q: Do you have any funny stories?
A: I’ve had so many good times at the annual CLMA meetings. One year, at the annual golf tournament, I was playing with Andy Weir (B + L) and Krist Jani (Paragon), and our cart lady had informed us that her boyfriend was in the group behind us and that he had already been drinking heavily. So, when that group hit into us, Krist made this error very clear to them. After we teed off on the next hole, one of the young guys came to Andy Weir and I…I obviously thought he was coming over to apologize…instead he said, “What’s your problem” and Andy (who is not diminutive) replied, “My problem is you!” All of a sudden, the young guy gets a little scared and says “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” Andy responds, “Well I’m a fighter” and pulls the kid out of the cart. While this is happening, Krist Jani (not diminutive either) has another of the young guys down on the ground in the fairway. The boys ultimately get away and race to the clubhouse, and I knew we were in for quite a scene when we completed the round, and sure enough about 15 young guys surround Krist. He had just arrived from overseas and was definitely fatigued but nevertheless told the group, “Get in your cars and follow me and we’ll find a place and I will take you all on.” And sure enough about five cars followed Krist out of the parking lot. I was incredibly relieved when he returned about an hour later and said the boys might have had second thoughts and stopped chasing him. Nevertheless, at dinner I found myself sitting between Andy and Krist and feeling very, very secure!
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: It’s been a wonderful journey over the years to see how the GPLI has progressed. I’ve seen the CLMA join together at a time when their organization and the GPLI were both in jeopardy of disbanding, and now – in part due to the efforts of Beth and our Development Committees, not to mention some very supportive and generous donors – we are in a very good position. And with the programs that are under development – or soon to be developed – the future is very exciting.