Services to be Held for Long-Time Contact Lens and Marketing Exec, Thomas Steiner


LAKE ZURICH, Ill.—Services are planned for long-time contact lens and marketing executive, Thomas F. Steiner, 73, who passed away on Dec. 6 after a long illness. Steiner spent 35 years as a visionary marketing executive in the optical industry with Wesley Jessen and CIBA Vision, and later started a business as a marketing consultant. Among his many accomplishments was his involvement in the launch of cosmetic color contact lenses, and the creation of several unique strategic programs for educating optometrists about the business aspects of practice. He was a mentor to many in the industry.

Steiner was born in Dayton, Ohio to Edward and Julia (Hollenkamp) Steiner. He graduated from Marquette University with a degree in Journalism in 1967 and married his wife Linda (Schlicher) shortly thereafter. He received a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. During the Vietnam War, he served as a naval officer on an admiral’s staff. After working at J. Walter Thompson, Kraft and Sara Lee, Steiner began his long-time career in optical.

Steiner was a visionary who made many significant contributions to the optical field, especially in the contact lens realm. He brought focus to measuring and analyzing the economics of optometric practice, and he helped to bring professional techniques and strategies to the management of optometric practices.

While at Wesley-Jessen in the 1980s and 1990s, Steiner headed the marketing team for the hugely successful DuraSoft Colors contact lens brand. He contracted celebrity endorsers Brooke Shields, Kristi Yamaguchi and Christy Turlington and made a national brand of “the contact lenses that turn your brown eyes blue.” When Wesley-Jessen was acquired by CIBA Vision, Steiner joined CIBA then left to consult in the optical field. He partnered with Jobson Optical Group on many projects.

Steiner began Corporate Optometry Reports (COR) which focused on the dynamics of corporate optometry. COR flourished as a quarterly report and bi-annual meeting. The meeting, sponsored by Alcon and produced by Jobson, continues to be held during Vision Expo weeks.

Steiner also founded and developed the Management & Business Academy (MBA), partnering with Jobson. The MBA, its database, and its comprehensive report Key Metrics of Optometric Practice provided performance benchmarks for owners and managers of optometric practices. The program included an intensive two-day seminar in managing practice finances, marketing and patient experience engineering and was attended by more than 3,000 ODs. The MBA gave rise to ancillary programs custom programs for optical retailers and ECPs.

Steiner, his family noted, was also a voracious reader of history, including multiple biographies of every president of the U.S. His love of art was displayed as an avid landscaper and skilled woodworker, making detailed furniture and carvings in his workshop for 40 years.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Linda; his son and daughter-in-law, Ted and Monica; three grandchildren, Grace, Isaiah and Lauren; his brothers, Steve (Patty), Peter (Lisa), John (Kathy); and sister, Mary (Vic) Lauterbach. He is preceded in death by his parents; and his brother, Ed (Mary).

Visitation is Friday, Dec. 14 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Davenport Funeral Home, 941 S. Old Rand Rd., Lake Zurich. The funeral is at 1:00 p.m., Dec. 15 at St. Anne Catholic Church, 120 Ela St., Barrington, with an hour of visitation at the church before Mass. Burial will follow at St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery in Palatine. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research or JourneyCare Hospice Foundation.