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Optometry College Receives Record Gift

The Mark W. Franks and Mary Franks Scholarship and Loan Fund is valued at $1.5 million.

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The Southern College of Optometry has received a $1.5 million gift, the largest in its history.

An agreement between the Optometry Association of Louisiana and SCO resulted in the transfer of a trust to SCO, according to a press release from the college. The gift was made possible by the estate of the late Dr. Mark W. Franks, a 1955 SCO graduate and longtime Louisiana optometrist.

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“Southern College of Optometry is grateful to the Optometry Association of Louisiana and the memory of Dr. Franks and his wife in establishing this fund,” said Dr. Lewis Reich, SCO president. “Dr. Franks was a self-made man who came to Memphis for his optometric education back in the early 1950s. The education he received at SCO enabled him to practice optometry in Winnsboro, Louisiana until his death in 1989, so the collaboration on this gift is a fitting tribute to the memory of a remarkable SCO graduate.”

Following his death in 1989, Franks and his wife, Mary, bequeathed about $500,000 to the Optometry Association of Louisiana to establish a low interest loan trust for Louisiana optometry students who attended SCO. After several years of legal and financial transactions to establish the trust, it came to fruition in 2000, at which time the college agreed to help administer the loan program with oversight from the Optometry Association of Louisiana.

To expand upon the impact envisioned by Franks more than 30 years ago, this year an agreement was reached to donate the existing trust fund and its control to SCO to form the Mark W. Franks and Mary Franks Scholarship and Loan Fund. The fund’s total current value is about $1.5 million, making it the largest bequeathment gift in the college’s 87-year history.

CO Board of Trustees Chair Dr. James Sandefur, a 1965 SCO graduate, also serves as the OAL’s executive director and joined Reich in making the announcement at the college’s reception for alumni and friends during SECO International’s New Orleans convention for 6,000 optometric professionals from around the world.

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“Louisiana is one of the nation’s most forward-thinking states when it comes to the practice of optometry and the scope of our profession, so this gift underscores our state’s commitment to recruiting the best and brightest optometry students to join our profession and follow in the tradition of Dr. Mark Franks,” Sandefur said.

“As Board Chair of SCO and as Executive Director of the OAL, I know first-hand that Dr. Franks loved optometry, Louisiana, and knew how important it was to give back to his profession so future optometric physicians could follow in his footsteps.”

The New Orleans announcement paid tribute to Franks, who was born March 17, 1922, in Owasso, OK. After working in construction, he served his country in World War II and pursued an engineering degree before switching to optometry. He worked his way through SCO by serving as a draftsman on a Memphis railroad yard. Memories of Franks were also provided by his practice’s longtime partner, Dr. W.E. Marionneaux, a 1969 SCO graduate.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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