National Alumni Society Member
Name: Rod Nowakowski
Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s):
1989 - Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Medical Genetics
1975 - O.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Optometry
1973 - B.S., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Physiological Optics
1971 - M.A., University of Miami, Mathematics
1968 - B.S., University of Miami, Mathematics
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Current town: Birmingham, AL
Current employer and job: UAB, Dean of the UAB School of Optometry
What is your favorite UAB memory? Our founding dean Hank Peters was really mad at me one day when I was a student. We had to do a project and I wrote a computer program about vision that was stored in the UAB Computer Center. I had not collected any data but had allocated storage space for the data and what I did not know was that you had to pay for the space whether you had any actual data or not. He got a bill for $600 and was livid. He did not know who instigated the bill but eventually tracked me down and I was summoned to his office. He was a very colorful man and asked what the ____ I thought I was doing. I replied, “Dr. Peters, I screwed up.” (Or something to that effect). He frowned for a minute, stirring his pipe and finally said, I respect a man who will admit he made a mistake – I’ll take care of it. Now, get out of here.”
How has UAB impacted your life? It has been virtually my entire career and professional life – am now in my 41st year counting my student years in optometry school.
What made you choose your current profession? A recommendation by my sister and brother-in-law to consider optometry and encouragement by a professor during my graduate studies in mathematics when I sought his advice. I did look into it, came to Birmingham, talked with Dr. Peters and here I am.
What would you do if you were given more time in each day? Might be able to get caught up. Spend time with my wife, Debi. Enjoy my hobbies: flying, oil painting and music.
What invention have you seen in your lifetime that you believe has been the most important? The dawn of gene therapy.
If you could have 3 wishes, what would they be? This one is easy – I would first wish for an unlimited number of wishes. The rest would take care of itself.
Which historical figure do you most identify with and why? I don’t identify with any particular historical figure but I really admire Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King for their leadership, intellect, and perseverance in the face of adversity.
If you had the power to solve one, and only one, problem in the world…what would it be and why? To ensure the future availability of abundant fresh water. This will be a crisis and solving it would alleviate one stimulus for war and would be a significant part of preventing famine.
What natural gift would you most like to possess? The ability to sing
What trait(s) do you most value in your friends? Honesty, taking ownership of their shortfalls, doing what needs to be done without regard for self, nurturing others, enduring adversity with grace and dignity, earned loyalty
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? As Dean I have had to make some very difficult decisions that were not popular with some or even many people. Eli Capilouto, former UAB provost, told me, “Rod, at the end of the day, it is not about counting the votes.” He was simply reaffirming that in a leadership role you have to do what you believe to be the right thing even when knowing that others will not agree with you.
If you could start a charity or non-profit organization, what would it be and why? I would take whatever resources I had for that and funnel them instead to the Humane Society. Animals, wild and domestic, are an important part of our world and our lives, are often are unable to protect themselves and are often treated cruelly. They need our help.
Student Alumni Society Member
Name: Matthew Davis
Graduation Year: 2013
Major: Doctor of Optometry
Hometown: Newton, NC
Why did you choose to attend UABSO? It has a great reputation as being one of the top Optometry schools.
Who is the best professor that you have had at UAB so far and why? Dr. Than. She is an extremely tough but fair professor who really cares if we learn the material. She does a great job preparing us for when we are out seeing patients on our own.
What is your favorite UAB memory? I really enjoyed our schools annual parties, and the yearly Eye-Ball was always lots of fun.
What do you do for fun? Spending time with family and friends. My wife and I love hiking and just being in the mountains.
Who are your heroes in real life? My father is an awesome example of a Godly father, husband, and business man. I have learned so much by his example.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Definitely flight; if nothing else, I wouldn’t have to fight traffic and the terrible parking lots at UAB every day.
What is the best invention of your lifetime and why? Definitely the smartphone. I love always having access to any information I need, anywhere I am.
What are your future goals? To practice Optometry in a private practice setting in Newton, NC.
What would be your ultimate dream job? To be the co-host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I would love traveling the country and getting paid to eat at such awesome places.
What’s the best advice you ever received? To make goals that, at first, seem unattainable or out of reach, because even if you don’t quite make it you’ll be surprised at how far you can go and how successful you can be.