Mrs. Ruth Powell and her son, Lloyd Powell, present the first Richmond Products Scholarship during the College of Optometry's Founder's Day celebration in August 2009. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Donation establishes first endowed scholarship at WesternU's College of Optometry

By Jeff Malet, Writer/Photographer

POMONA, Calif. - 01/28/2010 -- Western University of Health Sciences' College of Optometry (CO) has received its first endowed scholarship for the education of future eye-care professionals.

Richmond Products Inc., has donated $20,500 to create a scholarship in honor of Ruth M. and P. Lloyd Powell, who founded Richmond Products more than 50 years ago. Ruth and P. Lloyd Powell are the parents of Lloyd Powell, currently president of Richmond.

The scholarship will be awarded annually to a College of Optometry (CO) student during the College's Founders Day celebration each August.

"My father has passed away, and my mother almost never got any kudos, but she was a major part of making the products when (Richmond Products) first got started," Powell said of establishing a lasting memorial to his parents, particularly his mother, who was a major factor in the success of the company.

Powell knew what dedication it took for his parents to found their company, and felt that the work being done by the College of Optometry paralleled their pioneering efforts, especially the College's commitment to helping children with vision problems.

"I was impressed with the quality of the plan that the College of Optometry is implementing to get the school started," Powell said. "I want the school to exist and be fruitful. With an aging population, with children so underserved, there is plenty of opportunity."

"This is incredibly generous of Lloyd Powell, whose scholarship is already making a difference with one of our students, Mansi Shah," said College of Optometry Founding Dean Elizabeth Hoppe, OD, MPH, DrPH.

Shah, OD '13, received the first $1,000 scholarship in August 2009.

"As a new program, it is wonderful to have supporters who share our vision," Dr. Hoppe said. "The fact that Mr. Powell could see our shared values, and not only offer professional support but also provide financial support to assist our students, means the world to us. I am looking forward to a deep and ongoing partnership with Richmond Products."

The scholarship is based in part upon students' socioeconomic status and their ability to overcome obstacles or make sacrifices to pursue their education. An awards committee from the Optometry College faculty will review candidates and award the scholarships.

"The reason I think I got the scholarship is, Lloyd Powell and his family started Richmond Products from nothing, and it's a successful company now," said Shah, who immigrated from a poor part of western India with her family when she was 6 years old. "They awarded it to me because I pretty much came from nothing too. I kind of built myself up to this point, and I'm real proud of that."

Shah and her family had a difficult time adjusting to America. She worked in a warehouse at age 15, helping move boxes. In college, while working two jobs, she volunteered as vice president of an organization in India that provided free vision care to the poor.

While living in Richmond County, N.Y., and working for Bausch and Lomb more than 50 years ago, P. Lloyd Powell started Richmond Products Inc. after realizing there was no established source manufacturing tangent screens. Tangent screens are 40-inch black felt square targets with lines and circles sewn on them. They're used to determine a patient's visual field, and help optometrists diagnose as many as 38 different diseases based on the shape of that visual field.

P. Lloyd created the company with his wife, Ruth, who was an expert seamstress. Richmond Products, now located in Albuquerque, N.M., now makes more than 500 eye exam and testing products.


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