New England College of Optometry was founded in 1894 as the Klein School of Optics, and is the oldest continuously operating school of Optometry in the United States. During the past century, as optometry evolved as an independent health care profession, it expanded its curriculum and clinical programs to reflect the changing demands of the public. The name changed in 1901 to the Massachusetts School of Optometry, in 1950 to the Massachusetts College of Optometry, and in 1976 to the New England College of Optometry (NECO) to reflect its role in providing education for approximately 70% of the region's optometrists. Today the College, through its Center for the International Advancement of Optometry, has also instituted the largest international optometric program in the world by developing extension programs, the first of their kind, with China, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and, most recently, Germany.
The patient care programs of the College began in 1933 with an external clinic at the Harry E. Burroughs Newsboys Foundation. In 1941, it opened the Massachusetts Optometric Clinic on Commonwealth Avenue that continues today as our multi-site clinical subsidiary, New England Eye (NEE). Its main offices and flagship clinic are currently located adjacent to the Boston University Campus. NEE’s system of clinics has expanded to include sites throughout the Boston area, and is the largest provider of ambulatory eye and vision care services in Massachusetts. The College’s nationwide network of clinical training affiliates has grown to over 50 clinics, hospitals, and specialized care facilities, including three sites in other countries.
In recent years, the College has initiated an ambitious and successful program of basic and applied research. Its faculty annually attracts several million dollars in federal grants and contributes greatly to advances in the knowledge of ocular and visual disorders. The College is particularly known as a center of excellence for research in the etiology, prevention, and treatment of myopia.
The College’s Beacon Street campus, originally built as private homes in the late 1800s, was completely restored in the late 1990s and, in addition to providing classroom, laboratory, and office facilities, has won several local and national awards for outstanding preservation of historic buildings.