SCO Establishes Dr. C. Clayton Powell Memorial Scholarship

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MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Southern College of Optometry’s board of trustees has approved the establishment of a $25,000 endowed scholarship in honor of Dr. Clayton Powell, a pioneer for Black doctors in the field of optometry. Dr. Powell died last month at age 93 in Atlanta. “Dr. Powell was a legendary figure in optometry circles,” said SCO president Dr. Lewis Reich. “He opened doors and was an inspiration to hundreds of minority optometry professionals across the country, including students and faculty here at SCO. It is our honor to recognize his legacy and life’s work through this scholarship.”

To honor Powell’s legacy, SCO’s board created the endowment from school funds, reinforcing the school’s commitment to diversity in optometry and professional development for students. The endowment will provide $1,000 a year in perpetuity to an SCO student to cover attendance and travel costs to the annual meeting of the National Optometric Association. The recipient must be a member of the NOA’s student branch, the National Optometric Student Association.

Powell co-founded the NOA in 1969, an organization whose mission is to recruit minority students to pursue optometry and assist in their placement to professionally practice upon graduation. In addition to providing scholarships and grants, the organization has become nationally recognized in advancing the visual health of minority populations.

Powell practiced optometry for nearly 50 years in Atlanta. After graduating from Morehouse College, he earned a Doctor of Optometry from the Illinois College of Optometry, where he was the only Black student in his class. In addition to his involvement with the NOA and the optometry community, Powell was involved in several socially driven causes, including working closely with the NAACP Atlanta chapter to fight segregation in the Atlanta Public Schools system.