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Arlene E. Stearns Memorial Fund

The Arlene E. Stearns Memorial Fund was established in 2023 and supports orthoptic training programs, orthoptic students, and novice Certified Orthoptists in North America. This fund is possible because of a generous endowment from Arlene E. Stearns. It was her wish that this fund support the profession's youngest and brightest stars. 

About Arlene

Arlene E. Stearns was a pioneer of the orthoptic profession in the United States.


Arlene was born and raised in northern Ohio, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowling Green State University.  She certified as an orthoptist in 1948 under the direction of Margaret Crush, DBO.  In 1959, as a new orthoptist, Arlene was recruited by the Kresge Eye Institute of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan to introduce orthoptics to the Institute and develop an orthoptic program. 


From 1950-1986, Arlene trained and mentored 28 orthoptists.  Over her 42 year career, Arlene instructed over 300 ophthalmology residents in ocular motility, and provided countless sensory-motor examinations for physicians of the Kresge Eye Institute and the metropolitan Detroit community.  She was a beacon of knowledge on eye movement and binocular vision disorders at a time when the formal specialty of pediatric ophthalmology was just emerging. 


Arlene was recognized on the national level in the field of Orthoptics. She served the American Association of Certified Orthoptists (AACO) as Vice President, and chaired many committees. She served on the American Orthoptic Council (AOC) and was the 1978 AACO Lancaster Award recipient.  In 1970, Arlene was instrumental in establishing the Richard G. Scobee Memorial Lecture, and in 1978, the Richard G. Scobee Memorial Student Award. Both awards have honored the memory of Dr. Scobee at the annual meeting of the AACO every year since. 

Arlene retired from orthoptics in 1992 to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, enjoying a long retirement of world travel and volunteer work with children.  She loved nature, her cats and dogs, the game of golf, and an excellent Scotch.

Arlene’s legacy will continue into the decades ahead as she bequeathed a very generous donation to FOREA to promote students and novice orthoptists.  In direct line with Arlene’s wishes, The Arlene E. Stearns Memorial Fund has been established through FOREA and will support student scholarships, orthoptic research, and novice orthoptists. 

Arlene was a proud orthoptist—dignified, uncompromising and highly revered in the Detroit ophthalmic community.  As an instructor Arlene was tough, demanding and dedicated.  As a clinician she was laser-focused, compulsive and compassionate.  She taught us to be resourceful with our diagnostic tests…to be analytical investigators and problem solvers for our patients with sensory-motor abnormalities. 

From 1984-86 I had the honor and privilege of receiving my orthoptic education from Arlene as her last orthoptic student.  For me, Arlene was a role model of confidence, professionalism and life-long learning.  We sustained a friendship over many years that I will always cherish. I am overjoyed that the spirit of Arlene Stearns as orthoptist, educator and leader will carry on well into the future of our profession!

Judy Petrunak-Higgins, CO
Chair - Arlene E. Stearns Memorial Fund

Arlene E. Stearns Memorial Student Scholarship
Arlene E. Stearns Young Orthoptist Investigator Award
Arlene E. Stearns Rising Star Award
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