Meredith Morgan, beloved UC Berkeley dean and professor, dies at 87 after 67 years of service to the School of Optometry

By Pat McBroom, Public Affairs

Berkeley -- Meredith W. Morgan, who, as professor, dean and professor emeritus, helped guide the School of Optometry at the University of California, Berkeley, through 67 of its 75 years, died peacefully in the early morning hours of May 1.

He was 87.

Morgan had been terminally ill with lung cancer for a year.

Known for his research into basic mechanisms of eye focus and alignment, Morgan was a beloved professor for 33 years and dean of the School of Optometry for 13, during which time he carried the school to international prominence.

Grateful successors named the school's clinic after him and made him honorary chairman of last year's 75th anniversary celebrations. Throughout 1998, after he knew that lung cancer had reappeared, Morgan continued to be actively involved with the school, even writing the lead chapter in the recent book "Cal Optometry -- The First 75 Years."

"He was quite remarkable," said current dean of optometry, Anthony Adams. "Hardly anyone came through this school who didn't have contact of some kind with Morgan. An unbelievable number of optometrists view him as a mentor, colleague or model; many others simply think of him as a father or grandfather."

"He was a direct, very genuine man. His integrity was obvious, and he had this booming, contagious laugh," said Adams.

The laugh was so famous among those who knew Morgan that the school played a tape recording of the sound at clinic dedicating ceremonies last year.

Born in Kingman, Arizona, on March 22, 1912, Morgan moved to California as a young boy, his family settling in Richmond, a city near Berkeley. Morgan attended Richmond Union High School and later established an optometry practice in that area.

Graduating with honors from UC Berkeley in physics-optometry in 1934, Morgan earned a PhD in physiology here in 1942, after which he began to teach, earning professor rank in 1951.

His research into the elements of binocular vision resulted in two dozen papers laying out a basic understanding of how the two eyes work in synchrony to focus and converge on objects at close range. He also contributed to textbooks on the vision of children and aging patients.

During his years as Dean of the School of Optometry (1960-73), Morgan expanded the curriculum to include a doctoral program and recruited world-renowned vision scientists to the campus. He also was instrumental earlier in establishing a graduate program in physiological optics in 1946, one of the first such PhD programs in the country and the training ground for many future leaders in optometry.

In 1967, he received the prestigious Charles F. Prentice Medal from the Academy of Optometry, and in 1975, Morgan was awarded a Berkeley Citation for service to the university.

In announcing the Prentice Medal, the Academy of Optometry said it was based not only on his scientific achievements in vision research but on "his life as a teacher, scientist and man."

Morgan was diagnosed and treated for lung cancer five years ago. When the condition recurred last year, he declined further treatment and spent his final months of life in a celebration of the school he helped build.

Morgan is survived by a daughter, Linda Morgan, of San Pablo, Calif., and two grandchildren, Lauren, 16, and Colin, 14, also of San Pablo. Morgan's wife, Ida, died in the late 1980s.

A memorial service will be held in the Great Hall of UC Berkeley's Faculty Club on June 8, at a time to be announced.

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