Located in Memphis, the Southern College of Optometry has educated over six thousand optometrists in its sixty-nine years of existence. It is one of only seventeen schools of optometry in the United States and has contracts with several states to educate health care professionals.
In 1932 Dr. J. J. Horton, owner of a proprietary school in Kansas City, decided to move it to Memphis and opened the Southern College of Optometry (SCO) at 865 Washington with six students and two faculty members. From the beginning, the school was accredited by the Council on Optometric Education.
In 1935 Horton sold the school to Dr. Wilbur Cramer. In the mid-1940s, responding to changes in the profession, the school became a nonprofit institution. The college entered a period of growth after the end of World War II because of the GI Bill, and by 1950 the college occupied six buildings on Washington Avenue plus a clinic on Union.
The 1960s saw increased governmental spending in health care, as well as increased governmental regulation. The 1970s and 1980s saw more changes in the practice of optometry, as states passed laws allowing optometrists to use diagnostic, then therapeutic, pharmaceutical agents. The college moved to its architecturally significant eleven-story building at 1245 Madison in 1970.
Students from forty-two states and several foreign countries take a four-year postbaccalaureate course, combining classroom learning and practical experience. The school has forty-nine faculty members. Students have access to the latest methods and equipment, including VISIONET, a computer database developed by the college’s staff, which contains all eye care and vision science literature published since 1976.
The clinic at SCO, staffed by more than forty licensed clinicians assisted by sixty to one hundred students on rotation, sees over fifty thousand patient visits a year. In addition, the college provides services to city schools and nursing homes.