In 1960, the IU School of Optometry graduated its first two Black graduates of the OD Program—Charles Comer, BS/MS’60, and Clarence Currie, BS/MS’60.
Dr. Charles Comer was the first African American male to graduate from IUSO and to be licensed in the state of Indiana.
After graduation, Dr. Comer pursued a career in the U.S. Air Force and served on bases in Springfield, MA, and Sawyer, MI, examining over 13,000 patients. In 1965, he opened Harbor Health Care Center, which housed his practice Fashion Eyewear Boutique.
Dr. Comer became the first African American optometrist in East Chicago and practiced there for over 44 years. He dedicated much of his time to the advancement of African Americans. Among many other organizations, he was a member of the NAACP, Indiana Black Expo State Board, State Board of Health Black and Minority Health Advisory Committee, Lake County Minority Health Coalition, African Americans United, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Dr. Comer was also a member of many optometric organizations but had a passion for the National Optometric Association. He served as President, Association Manager, and Meeting Planner. Because of his initiatives and grant writing expertise, the NOA developed many partnerships with corporate sponsors. For his dedication to NOA, he was awarded the NOA Optometrist of the Year Award in 1996.
Dr. Comer will always be remembered for his dedication to the field of optometry and his infallible support of his family and friends. He passed away in 2011.
His classmate, Dr. Clarence Currie, also served in the U.S. Air Force (from 1951 to 1955) and was both a Pharmacy Technician and Staff Sergeant. Dr. Currie attended the U.S. Army Pharmacy School and was a Summer Workshop Scholar at Cambridge University.
From 1983–1999, Dr. Currie served as the Lake County (IN) Court Administrator and Jury Commissioner for the Lake County Superior Courts. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Social Fraternity and of Omega Epsilon Phi National Professional Optometry Fraternity. He was a past president of the Westbrook Community Council and a member and area governor of Toastmasters International.
Dr. Currie actively served his community of Gary, IN. He was a member and two-term president of the Gary Human Relations Council; member and two-term president of the Gary School Board; member of the Gary Parks & Recreation Board; member of the Lake County Tax Adjustment Board; member of the Gary Historical and Cultural Society; member of the Board of Trustees for the Friends of Emerson School for the Performing Arts; and former president of the Board of Trustees for St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Dr. Currie was also a frequent contributor to the Gary Post-Tribune’s “Letters To The Editor,” and briefly acted as a guest columnist for the newspaper. He was also a weekly guest columnist for the Gary INFO Newspaper. Dr. Currie passed away in 2002.