A small group of prominent Oklahoma City citizens, led by ophthalmologist Richard A. Clay, M.D., founded the Oklahoma Eye Foundation in 1965 with the specific goal of establishing an eye institute. Their vision was to create a center of excellence to train ophthalmologists and conduct vision research in order to provide superior eye care for all Oklahomans.
In 1971, Dean A. McGee, President of the Kerr-McGee Corporation, developed a retinal detachment. This was successfully repaired by Dr. Tullos O. Coston and Dr. Thomas E. Acers. Inspired by this experience, Mr. McGee joined the effort to establish an eye institute. His stature within the community, leadership, and personal generosity provided the catalyst for the creation the Eye Institute that bears his name.
Dr. Thomas E. Acers was named as the first full-time Chair of the University of Oklahoma Department of Ophthalmology in 1972. Under his leadership, the current site of the Dean McGee Eye Institute was chosen, and construction of the original building began. On December 4, 1975, the Dean McGee Eye Institute was dedicated with Dr. Acers as its President. During Dr. Acers’ eventful tenure from 1972 to 1991, the Institute and Department experienced tremendous growth while establishing a new standard of clinical care and retaining a primary focus on education in ophthalmology.
In 1992, Dr. David W. Parke II succeeded Dr. Acers as the Institute’s second President and as Chair of the Department. As a result of Dr. Parke’s leadership, the Institute, building on its history of clinical and educational excellence, established one of the nation’s premier vision research programs and embarked on a major construction and renovation project to double the size of its facilities. Dr. Parke now serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Dr. Gregory L. Skuta was appointed as the third President and as Chair of the Department in 2009. Successful clinical and academic programs as well as the fulfillment of the capital campaign continued under his leadership and resulted in completion of the new building, which was dedicated on September 30, 2011.
Critical to the Dean McGee Eye Institute’s success and unique among major American eye institutes was the incorporation of the Institute as a separate charitable entity with its own governing Board of Trustees and the adoption of an affiliation agreement with the University of Oklahoma. The committed and insightful stewardship of volunteer Board members has been critical to the Institute’s growth and development. In particular, the Board leadership of Stanton L. Young and James R. Tolbert III, longstanding Oklahoma City civic leaders, provided consistent strength and stability.
Ultimately, the remarkable achievements of the Dean McGee Eye Institute are the result of the outstanding quality of compassionate care provided by its physicians and staff, the disciplined and creative work of its scientists, and the hundreds of generous donors who have supported its mission. The Institute is proud of its remarkable legacy and the trust placed in it by patients and the citizens of Oklahoma. In keeping with the principles established by its founders, the Dean McGee Eye Institute pledges to continue its unwavering commitment to excellence in patient care, education, and vision research.