When Richard Raymer, OD ’50 attended NICO (a predecessor to ICO), it took two years to get an OD. As an undergraduate, he attended University of Illinois Chicago – then located at Navy Pier – and arrived at NICO before the current campus was built. Rather than white coats, each student had their own white scrubs. (picture above)
A life-time Chicagoan, Richard Raymer, OD ’50 grew up in West Rogers Park. From 1954 to 2017 he practiced on Devon Avenue. He watched Rogers Park (and Devon) evolve from a neighborhood that was predominantly Swedish to orthodox Jewish to ultimately becoming the hub of South Asian culture in Chicago. As the neighborhood grew, so too did the practice. His practice became a little slice of the many cultures that make Chicago so unique. “For me, it was always important to make a human connection, regardless of the cultural differences. ” Even today, 70 years after he received his doctorate in optometry, he still takes care of patients from time to time. (This has slowed down due to the COVID pandemic.)
While things in Chicago and on Devon Ave. have significantly changed, some things have remained the same. Chicagoans still love their pizza (Dr. Raymer first tasted pizza at Tony’s, one of the first restaurants to sell pizza in Chicago), and the Tomb & Key Honor Society, of which Dr. Raymer is also a member, is still ICO’s highest academic honor organization. “It is still a point of pride for me that I was accepted in the Tomb & Key Honor Society,” says Dr. Raymer.
EVERYBODY COMES TO DEVON
Devon Avenue captures the diversity of Chicago. There's something special about a place where so many cultures and beliefs come together and become part of your day-to-day. Optometry is about the connections we make with our patients. I have learned so much from those who came to my clinic, no matter where they were from.
ALWAYS FOUR ROWS UP
My wife and I had season tickets to the Chicago Symphony for nearly 20 years. For 20 years, we always had tickets in the same spot: 1st balcony, 4th row up. They were great seats. From where we sat, you could see the whole orchestra. When my wife passed, I bought her a seat in ICO's new lecture hall. I made sure to buy the seat on the fourth row up. Every time I come to ICO, I sit in her seat.
NOT AN EMPTY WALL IN THE HOUSE
I have always been a big fan of art. My wife and I collected outsider art – art developed outside of the mainstream art world or art institutions. A couple of the artists eventually made names for themselves.
THE FURTHER, THE BETTER
My wife and I committed to seeing as much of the world as possible – on Christmas, we went to Broadway shows, we saw much of Europe, but most importantly, every year we visited a developing country. Our absolute favorite place was New Guinea. Later we did the same with our grandchildren. Together we saw China, Tanzania, Kenya, Peru and Alaska. It's been wonderful to share these experiences with my four grandsons. We were even featured in the Chicago Tribune!
I have been blessed to have a wonderful wife and two lovely children. It has been very hard losing my wife and my daughter, but I have been so thankful for my son and his wife. For the past few months, they have been with me through my hip replacement. I have loved having them in the house and having the house filled with the soft sounds of Spanish in the background. (My son lives in Colombia. So, all of my family speaks Spanish!)
When I attended ICO our classes were held in brownstones near Michigan Avenue. The best (and most demanding) professor was Dr. Zunika. It sounds strange but Dr. Needles (one of the several of them) taught a course on how to use a pair of pliers! It is still a point of pride for me that I was accepted in the Tomb & Key Honor Society.
The first condo we owned was built by the Ambassador East Hotel. Because the original intent was for the condo to be part of the hotel, they built a tunnel that directly connected us to the Ambassador East Hotel. The Pump Room (inside the Ambassador East Hotel) was one of the most popular restaurants in all of Chicago at that time, and Booth One not only seated Oprah Winfrey and Dustin Hoffman but Humphrey Bogart and Elizabeth Taylor as well. It was one of our favorite places to go out. (Especially in the winter! We never even had to go outside!)