Home Where We Practice Academia Two New Optometry School Deans Announced

Two New Optometry School Deans Announced

rich castillo
Dr. Castillo

Updated July 18, 2024: A new optometry school, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, has announced Rich Castillo, OD, DO, FASOS, as the founding dean of the school of optometry, to begin Aug. 5, 2024.

Two optometry schools announced the selection of new deans this month. Sharon A. Bentley, BScOptom, MOptom, PhD, MPH, FAAO, FACO, will become dean of the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Nathan Lighthizer, OD, has already stepped into the role at Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO). Both bring a wealth of experience and a forward-thinking vision to their respective institutions, promising advancements in optometric education and patient care.


sharon bentley, one of two new deans
Dr. Bentley

Currently, Dr. Bentley is a professor of optometry, deputy dean of the Faculty of Health, and director of the Centre for Vision and Eye Research at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. She officially joins the UC Berkeley community on February 3, 2025. Dr. Bently brings more than 25 years of experience in optometry, public health and education.

Dr. Bentley brins an extensive background in strategic planning and program management. She also has a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Her research has focused on the effects of vision impairment on daily living and the provision of low-vision services.

One of Dr. Bentley’s achievements includes establishing the Leaders in Indigenous Optometry Education Network. This involves heads of optometry schools from Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, professional organizations, regulatory authorities and Indigenous health groups. Her efforts in integrating Indigenous health into the optometry curriculum at QUT have set a benchmark for culturally safe education practices.


Nathan Lighthizer, second of two new deans
Dr. Lighthizer

Effective July 1, Dr. Lighthizer became the Dean for NSUOCO. Dr. Lighthizer, who previously served as the associate dean of NSUOCO, has been instrumental in promoting the college at local, state and national levels. His work with the Cherokee Nation, local leaders, the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians and alumni has been pivotal in advancing the scope of practice for optometrists nationwide.

Dr. Lighthizer expressed his enthusiasm for his new role, saying, “I am most looking forward to working with the students, residents, faculty, and staff of NSUOCO in helping to continue to build on the great things that have been accomplished at NSUOCO over the years and decades.” He emphasized the importance of elevating NSUOCO to the highest levels possible and exploring new ways to expand and elevate optometric education and patient care.

Construction of a new state-of-the-art facility for NSUOCO is underway. It is expected to be completed by the fall semester of 2025. The new building will expand clinical services, enhance classroom and clinic technology and provide more opportunities for conferences and courses in Tahlequah.

Read Women In Optometry’s updated listing of ODs in academic leadership positions.

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