Scott Jens, OD ’91, had been in the field of optometry for almost thirty years and sat on the Board of Trustees, but had never donated to ICO. He is not unique in that regard. “Lots of doctors have positive feelings about ICO, but don’t donate back,” he noted. A recent series of events changed that for him.
“You get to a certain point and start reflecting on your career. The 150th anniversary was coming up and that was compelling. I wanted to do something with ICO and we decided as a family to donate.”
When they donate, most donors want it to mean something and serve a larger purpose. Like many Americans, that purpose found Dr. Jens in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd and the social unrest that followed. “It was a watershed moment for a lot of people. I learned to open my ears and not my mouth,” he said.
That purpose also aligns with ICO’s commitment to serving the larger community through a renewed emphasis on nurturing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and within the exam rooms of the IEI, practicing culturally competent care for some of Chicago’s most vulnerable residents.
Working with the Development Office, Dr. Jens identified two initiatives that supported the commitment to community he was looking to serve. One was helping to fund a pilot program initiated by faculty member Eric Harris, OD that partners with Chicago Public Schools and city high schools to introduce Black and Brown teens to the field of optometry.
The other was in support of the LGBTQ+ students at ICO in their efforts to create a physical space on campus where they could gather and learn, a space that other groups on campus could also use to congregate and be in community with one another.
“I was not always as understanding as I could have been when I was younger and in school, but I have grown. It is important to us to support kids who face challenges. Optometry should look like America,” said Dr. Jens, which is, indeed, a purpose worth supporting.