Explore UAB

by Nathan Anderson

Sommer Thompson received the UAB School of Optometry’s Dean’s Outstanding Staff Award for her efforts at the School, which have positively impacted faculty, staff, patients and students through her role as the senior director of development. The Dean’s Outstanding Staff award is selected by Dean Kelly Nichols each year.  

“It is an honor to receive the Dean’s Outstanding Staff Award,” Thompson said. “It is gratifying to receive recognition for the hard work and impact our fundraising efforts have made at the School.”  

In the 2023/2024 academic year, the donor impact from industry partners and Alumni to the School was just over $1.8 million. The scholarship dollars awarded to deserving students totaled almost $103,000, equaling 81 endowed scholarships and annual awards. During her time at the School, Thompson has secured gifts to double the number of endowed scholarships and to fund the first endowed faculty position in the School’s history.  

Recently, the School announced the largest gift it has ever received from an individual donor: a $936,000 gift from Dr. Marnix E. Heersink and Mrs. Mary Heersink to create the Heersink Scholars Pathways to Optometry Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship will provide half tuition for two UAB optometry students annually, in perpetuity. Thompson led the efforts to secure this impactful scholarship. 

“People are successful at their jobs for many reasons,” said Dean Kelly Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, FAAO. “In Sommer’s case, I would say it is because she understands the gentle nuances of her profession and is driven to reach her goals, which make a significant difference in the lives of our students, patients and alumni alike.”  

Thompson explained that she appreciates the impact her work has on others. 

“I am motivated by several things but mostly by the impact my work has on others,” she said. “This job is rewarding because every dollar we raise positively impacts and enriches the life of a student, a faculty member or a patient.”