Memphis Downtowner January/February 2018 : Page 7

by Terre Gorham My 2 Cents Dr. Lewis Reich President, Southern College of Optometry was born in the Bronx, in 1962, but grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, in a typical suburban neighborhood. My dad commuted to work in Lower Manhattan, New York City, every day of his life. He was an engineer for Ebasco Services. His company was one of the first tenants of the then-new World Trade Center. In the late ‘60s, I saw the World Trade Center begin construction as a hole in the ground. I was in grade school at that time, and I distinctly remember it. Most of the building was empty when my dad’s company moved in, and they got a great deal on the space, because people thought it was a folly to build a building of that size. Ebasco was on the 80th-something floor, and he used to tell me about how the building swayed — he was very sensitive to movement — and that’s where he worked while I was growing up. My father’s company designed nuclear power plants. His company was eventually swallowed up by many larger companies. My mom, who is now 93, was a stay-at-home mom. She was born in Berlin and is a Holocaust survivor. As a child, she was sent to live in Denmark, where she grew up. When she was 19, she was caught by the Nazis and sent to the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. She was there from 1943 until 1945, and was liberated on a Friday the 13th, just before the war was over. She was 21 years old. I After she was liberated, my mother went back to Denmark, not knowing if any of her family was still alive. Eventually, the family members who had survived, tracked her down and told her to join them in the Bronx, in the United States. She went. She met my father during a weekend for singles in the Catskill Mountains — the equivalent of today’s online dating, I suppose. But they met because they had the same last name — very unusual. My father was paged for a phone call, and my uncle, who had the same last name, went to get the call. So my parents met at the telephone! My mother is very much an optimist, and she doesn’t like to dwell on the negative. She spoke German, Danish, English — but we didn’t grow up with foreign languages. My mother could switch into a language, but she couldn’t switch back. When she went to Denmark or Germany, she picked up right where she left off, but she was not able to “bring it back home” with her. As a child, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve worn eyeglasses since I was 5 years old, but optometry was never something I was particularly interested in — other than the fact that eyeglasses were always a part of my life. Probably what got me into optometry more than anything was my interest in science. When I was an undergrad, I thought I was going to be a research scientist. But I worked at a research lab and found it incredibly boring. I wanted to work with people. Optometry combined something I was very interested in — optics — and working with people. So it became a good fit for me. I am an educator as opposed to a practicing doctor. I didn’t want to go to medical school because I didn’t want to work with sick people. I know that sounds awful, but I had no desire to deal with sickness all day, every day. In high school, I volunteered at a hospital, and I mostly transported patients and worked January/February 2018 | DOWNTOWNER MAGAZINE 7

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