Ohio State honors optometrist-turned-philanthropist

COLUMBIANA – While attending the Ohio State University’s College of Optometry more than 60 years ago Columbiana optometrist Jim Garstick noticed some things he wanted to change.

The first was that students who were qualified in the field were going on to work for already established practices rather than starting their own. The second was that some students in their third and fourth years needed help financially.

About four decades after his own graduation in 1951 he was able to make those changes through financial contributions that created a student scholarship.

Rachel Childress, OSU director of development, said the permanent scholarship established in 1995 is need-based for third and fourth year students in optometry.

“I thought a contribution like this would relieve some of the student debt (and) would pave the way to establishing a practice rather than just going to work for somebody,” Garstick said.

Garstick has given other contributions over the years, and the college recently presented him with the Neal Bailey Medal for exceptional service in development.

Childress said the award is given to alumni and friends of the College of Optometry who have given $50,000 or more cumulatively to just optometry at OSU.

Neal Bailey, Ph.D., was a 1947 graduate and later taught at the college, which wasn’t officially established as a college until 1968. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 89.

Garstick recalls being one of Bailey’s students, and ironically, the two men created scholarships for students in the same year.

Childress said Bailey established a scholarship benefiting optometry students in 1995 as well. The scholarship is given to students who demonstrate leadership and scholastic achievement.

“At the time of his gift, he was one of the most philanthropic and influential leaders here at the college and so the award was born,” she said of Bailey.

Garstick said he is honored to receive the award named after the man who became an “icon” in the contact lens industry.

“I was very surprised about getting the award … I was very overwhelmed,” he said.

Childress said only five Neal Bailey medals have been given out by the College of Optometry since 1995, and six were given out this year.

“It’s a pretty exclusive club of only 11 people but we hope to grow that number as we are nearly $6 million into a $10 million campaign here at the college,” she said.

The campaign is part of the larger But for Ohio State campaign with the overall University goal of $2.5 billion, she added.

Garstick said that when establishing the scholarship in 1995 he hoped others would do the same. As a result of his and his wife’s contributions to the college, they are both lifetime members of the President’s Club.

Vylee Garstick graduated from OSU in 1949 with a degree in home economics and business. The two met in the college library when Jim Garstick was a junior.

“Sitting across from me was this very nice looking young lady, and I happened to spot her phone number … I took her out on a date, and we were married six months later,” he laughed.

Garstick retired from his local optometry practice in 1993.