Philip qualified as an optometrist in the mid-1940s. By the 1970s, when all was not well in the world of optics, optometry had emerged as a relatively new profession, but the various optical bodies were not fit for the purpose of leading this new profession. There was a need for a new organisation to oversee academic and examining functions and to lead professional development. The visionaries in the profession, including a relatively young Philip Cole, saw that there was a need to create a College of Optometrists. But there were huge challenges. To persuade the old organisations to relinquish some of their roles and to lead the formation of the new College required a man of intellect, stature, fairness, and who inspired others and commanded respect.

That man was Philip Cole and he was instrumental in founding the College of Optometrists in 1980. He became its first president and later its professional adviser. The influence of the College and through it, Phil, continues to play a key role in ensuring that optometrists have the skills required to safely help their patients. In a tangible way, the College celebrates Phil’s contribution each year when they award the Philip Cole Award for practice-based research.

At a more local level, Phil cared for thousands of patients in his practice in Brentwood, and was succeeded by Tony Martin and Tony Tregaskis and, for the last 22 years, by me and my team. In the practice, we still try to live up to the standards of clinical excellence and professionalism laid down by Phil. We have a personal debt of gratitude to Phil for founding the practice, but the profession as a whole has a greater debt. I thank Phil, on behalf of the profession, for his key role in founding the College of Optometrists and indeed for being one of the great founding fathers of our profession.