Investiture of William F. Mieler, MD

Inaugural recipient of the Cless Family Professorship in Ophthalmology

(in order from left to right) Stephen Cless; Gennifer Zehr Cless; Mark I. Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, MBS; Thomas Aaberg, MD; Provost Eric Glslason, PhD; William F. Meiler, MD; Dimitri T. Azar, MD, MBA; Martin Cless; James Reid; Bryan Cless; Jennifer Kang-Mieler, PhD; Stephen Zehr

The investiture took place on Tuesday, November 18, 2014.  The Cless Family Professorship was established thanks to the generosity of the Cless Family Foundation. Endowed professorships are one of the highest honors bestowed by the academic community. Income from these funds provides research support and resources for program development that enable educators to pursue projects at the forefront of their fields. This funding secures the longevity of our programs. Because they foster exceptional opportunities for teaching, research and service, endowed positions are fundamental to attracting and retaining top ranked physicians.

Gerhard and Ruth Cless have been loyal supporters of the University of Illinois College of Medicine department of ophthalmology and visual sciences since 2000. Funding an array of projects and needs for the department including vision research and education programs, support for acquisitions of advanced microscopy, recruitment of retina faculty, clinical studies in the diseases of the retina and macula, as well as support for a retina fellowship. Prior gifts also established the Gerhard Cless Endowed Lecture in 2003 and the Cless Best of the Best Award in 2008. The Cless Family Professorship in Ophthalmology was funded in 2013, and their most recent commitment was made in support of the ophthalmic surgical simulation and education center at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Currently serving as Executive Vice President and Director, Gerhard Cless has devoted much of his career to Zebra Technologies Corporation, a company he cofounded 1969. From its early beginnings, Zebra has sought to bring on-demand barcode printing to the commercial market place and now has developed into a global company providing visibility solutions to improve productivity and real-time operational intelligence to organizations in over 100 countries. Barcodes, RFID, Internet-of-Things devices/sensors and cloud computing track and provide insights into manufacturing processes, equipment and organizational flow, and most recently the movements and performance of NFL football players via RFID chips in their shoulder pads.

Prior to co-founding Zebra, Mr. Cless was a research and development engineer in Teletype Corporation’s printer division. Mr. Cless received an MSME degree from Esslingen, Germany and attended Illinois Institute of Technology. The Cless Technology Center, Zebra’s product development and research facility, is named in honor of Mr. Cless.

In 1991, Mr. Cless and his wife, Ruth, founded the Karl Cless Foundation (currently known as the Cless Family Foundation) named for his father, which allows them to support important philanthropic causes to their family. Gerhard and Ruth Cless have been gracious benefactors of the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences and have made an extraordinary impact through their continued generosity over the years.

Dr. Mieler’s specialty areas include diseases and surgery of the retina and vitreous, along with ocular oncology.  Dr. Mieler received his MD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Medical School in 1979.  After completion of his internship at Mercy Hospital Medical Center in San Diego in 1980, he completed his ophthalmology residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami.  This was followed by a one-year vitreoretinal fellowship at the Eye Institute, Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee,  a return to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute where he served as chief resident and clinical instructor, and then a second fellowship in ocular oncology at Wills Eye Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University.  In 1985, he joined the full-time faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he became professor of ophthalmology in 1992, and was awarded the Jack A. and Elaine D. Klieger Chair in Ophthalmology in 1998. Prior to his current position at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Mieler held positions as professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and professor and chairman of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Mieler has authored or co-authored over 335 scientific papers, 70 book chapters, and 5 textbooks and is a scientific  reviewer for 31 journals. He has been the Principal Investigator or co-Investigator of more than 50 scientific grants and collaborative studies.  He has served the American Board of Ophthalmology as a Board Director, Chairman of the Board in 2005, as Associate Executive Director, and currently serves as Emeritus Director.  He also serves on several committees with the American Board of Medical Specialties.  He is a past President of the Macula Society, and received the Society’s Gass Medal in 2013. He has served on the executive committees of the Retina Society and the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS).  In 2011, he was named recipient of the Founders Award by the ASRS.  He is a past member of the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology Board of Directors, and he currently chairs the Foundation Grants Committee.  Dr. Mieler also serves on the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Board of Trustees, as president and retina section trustee.