Dear Optometry Community,
I am writing to you today with some important information about our School’s Hall of Fame. It has come to light that Dr. Frederick Mason, who taught at the School of Optometry from 1924 to 1953 — and is a charter member of the Hall of Fame — held beliefs and behaved in a manner that is wholly unworthy of the honor bestowed upon him. Specifically, Dr. Mason was a racist and a bully. Therefore, as of today, he has been removed from our Hall of Fame.
In particular, he behaved reprehensibly towards Berkeley Optometry’s first black graduate, Dr. Marvin Poston. Dr. Poston endured provocation and racial abuse during his time at UC Berkeley. He was instructed by Mason to provide his own black patients for the clinic because he was black. He was unfairly failed in a course by Mason because he was black. Mason attempted to influence the State Board from issuing Dr. Poston a license because he was black, and blocked Dr. Poston’s membership in the California Optometric Association (COA) and local society because he was black.
As dean, I am disappointed and ashamed that Dr. Mason’s racist actions were disregarded at his time of induction into our Hall of Fame, and that this did not immediately disqualify him. His membership in our most revered society shines a revealing light on the extent that racist attitudes have been allowed to proliferate within our country, our state, our campus, and within our own halls. And although this action is much too late in coming, I am thankful for the opportunity to reverse this shameful event in our school history.
I am also grateful to the many alums and friends of Berkeley Optometry who have reached out to me, urging that this action be taken. We as a community won’t rest here — there is still much work to do in our quest to support black advancement within our profession, and within our school.
Impressively, true to Dr. Poston’s unwavering spirit and dedication to the optometric profession, he went on to be president of both the COA and his local society, even though he was initially barred from membership. Dr. Poston served on the State Board for 10 years, including being its Chair; he was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Sr., and reappointed by Gov. Ronald Reagan. He also helped organize a pioneering vision insurance program, California Vision Services, today called Vision Service Plan (VSP), and served as VSP’s president in 1963. Dr. Poston is a celebrated member of the Berkeley Optometry Hall of Fame, who accomplished many outstanding achievements during his distinguished career, and who we posthumously honored as the 2019 Alumnus of the Year.
For further information about Dr. Poston’s extraordinary contributions to the profession of optometry please visit our Hall of Fame webpage, and read his daughter’s moving tribute from the Alumnus of the Year celebrations.
Dean and Professor