Winner of Plymouth University Clinical Optometry Prize Announced

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The winner of this year’s First Year Clinical Optometry Prize at Plymouth University is Geoffrey Filmore. Geoffrey achieved the highest overall mark in the First Year Clinical Optometry Skills module and was delighted to receive an ophthalmoscope and retinoscope set donated by Keeler.

“The Clinical Optometry Skills module is where our first year students start to hone and develop the key clinical skills they will take forward into their professional careers as optometrists,” said Dr Catriona Hamer, Lecturer in Optometry at the University.

“Geoffrey was delighted to receive the prize for the highest mark in this module and will no doubt be using the Keeler equipment for many years to come!

“We approached Keeler back in 2014, the first year these prizes were awarded, to see if they would sponsor the prize for us and they happily agreed. The company has now provided a prize for the last four years. The ophthalmoscope and retinoscope set always goes down exceedingly well with the students and we are very grateful for Keeler’s support,” concluded Catriona.

“We’re always happy to support universities and students in this way,” added Laura Haverley, Keeler’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “Cultivating a close relationship with the UK’s optometry schools also helps us understand their needs and the needs of their students.”

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Putting Employees First for 100 Years

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Judy Meaks, 80, who has been with Keeler for 53 years.

Keeler’s employees have always been integral to the company’s success. Of Keeler’s first eight key personnel – all vital in building the business in the early years from 1917 to around 1935 – six left school at the age 14, including the founder.

“They were all fighters, all hands-on, very practical people. They all came from humble beginnings, including my grandfather. What drove them? What made them so hardworking, so dedicated, so intuitive? There’s a common thread: they all had a great willingness to serve the customer.” Those are the words of Richard Keeler, who was Managing Director from 1970 until his retirement in 1986.

There are still many employees who have been with the company for over 30 years, helping to maintain the company’s very close-knit, family tradition. The longest-serving person is Judy Meaks, now 80, an instrument assembler who has been with Keeler for 53 years.

Commenting on her many years of loyal service, Judy said: “I love it here, I really do. It’s always been hands-on; the best thing has been learning on the job. The people are nice and I’m lucky to live close by.”

Another ‘lifer’ is Steve Marriott, the Site Services Manager, who has 43 years’ service with Keeler. “I cover the company’s history in my induction talk to new employees. I’m fascinated by it; and it’s a pleasure to pass on the little bits I know about the characters, the products and the culture that has made Keeler so special.”

These and many other employees clearly have a love for Keeler and are proud to have remained loyal for so many years. This is a huge testament to the company’s status as an employer that puts its workers first.

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Keeler – A British Global Success Story

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Keeler’s China and India teams.

From its foundation in 1917 as a dispensing practice in London, Keeler has gone on to become a global leader in ophthalmic instruments, with many award-winning products to its name.

The decision to target global markets – especially the USA – began after the Second World War. The British economy was struggling and Keeler knew it had to pursue exports to remain viable, so it separated its dispensing optician and instrument businesses to create a more streamlined operation and ventured into new markets overseas.

In 1984 Keeler faced increased domestic competition due to the deregulation of retail optics in the UK. This meant increased pressure to maintain a profitable dispensing optician business. Three years later the company won a major lawsuit in the USA, enabling it to continue selling its Pulsair non-contact tonometer – one of its flagship products – in the USA and globally.

This was a turning point in the company’s global success and helped establish Keeler USA as a leading player in the North American ophthalmic industry – no mean feat for a British interloper (albeit one whose founder was originally from America!).

Keeler’s products are now helping improve the eyesight of patients all over the world, from India and China to Brazil, Australia and South Africa.

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Producing Innovative Products for Almost 100 Years

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Since Keeler’s inception in 1917 the company has gone on to become a world-leader in the manufacture of innovative, award-winning ophthalmic instruments.

It started when Charles Henry Keeler, the founder’s son, patented his first instrument – a combined retinoscope and ophthalmoscope – in 1926. Major product launches in the following years included the Fison indirect ophthalmoscope in 1959 and the Micro Ophthalmic surgical unit and Vernon Ingram Ruby laser in 1965.

The British Design Award was awarded to Keeler’s Pocket Diagnostic Set in 1979, the Vickers Microsurgery Set in 1982 and the Pulsair non-contact tonometer in in 1987. The Pulsair also won the Duke of Edinburgh’s Designer’s Prize in 1988 and the highly prestigious Queen’s Award in 1989.

The first Vantage indirect ophthalmoscope was launched in the 1990s, and in the 2000s an array of products were brought to the market, including the first wireless indirect ophthalmoscope, a lighter Specialist ophthalmoscope, the Cryomatic cryogenic unit, the PSL Classic portable slit lamp and, most recently, the Symphony slit lamp range.

Keeler continues to innovate and lead the field in ophthalmic instruments as we head towards the 2020s.

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Keeler: A Family Tradition

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Charles Henry Keeler with his OBE.

Keeler’s history dates back to 1917, when Charles Davis Keeler, who had arrived from America in 1906, opened a dispensing practice at 47 Wigmore Street in London’s West End. This was followed by branches in the West Country and the Midlands, laying the foundations for Keeler’s future growth and establishing the high standards in product quality and customer service which have characterised Keeler for a hundred years.

His son, Charles H Keeler, joined the family business in 1922 and became involved in the design of instruments for ophthalmologists. He patented his first instrument – a combined retinoscope and ophthalmoscope – in 1926, marking the birth of Keeler’s instrument business.

In 1935 Charles purchased the freehold of a large house in Windsor with 10 acres of grounds, where the spectacle and lens manufacturing operations were moved at the outbreak of World War Two. The present factory was built in the fields adjoining the family home. Post-war, Keeler separated its dispensing optician and instrument businesses to create a more streamlined operation and ventured into new markets overseas.

In 1958 Charles’ eldest son, Richard Keeler, joined the company, first qualifying as a dispensing optician, and then working in instrument sales. In 1970 he became Managing Director and steered the company through many successful years. He remained MD after Keeler was acquired by the Dollond & Aitchison Group, and finally retired in 1996 when the company was acquired by Halma plc. In 1993 Richard was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

Richard may no longer be Managing Director, but the family tradition and ethos continues at Keeler to this day.

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Keeler: Helping Young Ophthalmologists Financially for 50 Years

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Richard Scawn (centre) with his mentors Dr. Kikkawa (left) and Dr. Korn (right).

Since Keeler established its Scholarship Trust in 1967 to mark the company’s 50th anniversary, and its Fellowship Award in 1989 to enable a young ophthalmologist to study a specialised area of ophthalmology for up to a year, 100 people have benefited, with 16 Fellowships awarded. Administered by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the Fellowship is awarded every second year.

Professor Philip Bloom, a Trustee of the Keeler Scholarship, was one of its first recipients. It enabled him to fund his Glaucoma Fellowship at Moorfields and the Western Eye Hospital, setting up his career as Consultant in a Sub-Speciality.

“The Keeler Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awards in the field of ophthalmology,” commented Professor Bloom. “The fact that it is a substantial amount and has been consistent for so many years demonstrates the breadth and depth of Keeler’s
commitment to medical education and to the industry.”

Richard Scawn’s 2012 Fellowship award supported an oculoplastic and reconstructive fellowship at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) where he gained technical surgical skills and clinical experience under international experts, Dr Kikkawa and Dr Korn. Richard is now passing those skills onto to the next generation of ophthalmologists.

“I’ve always felt a profound responsibility to make the best of the training opportunity the award has afforded me. I’m training as an oculoplastic fellow in Buckinghamshire; I am an instructor at ‘wet lab’ surgical training at the American Academy of Ophthalmology;
and an editor of Eyewiki. There is no doubt the award and my fellowship at UCSD were instrumental in helping me achieve these things,” said Richard.

Commenting on the awards, Keeler’s Managing Director Abbas Sotoudeh said: “From Keeler’s perspective, we are absolutely committed to these awards as they play an instrumental role in helping young ophthalmologists get a head start in their careers, enabling them to go on and perform an important service to society as a whole.”

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100th anniversary celebrations continue with staff banquet

Judy Meakes receiving a standing ovation from Keeler employees for over 50 years of service to the company.

Judy Meakes receiving a standing ovation from Keeler employees for over 50 years of service to the company.

Keeler’s 100th anniversary celebrations continued in style on 15 June with a wonderful banquet for current and former staff and associates at the De Vere Beaumont Estate in Windsor. Set in 40 acres of parkland and gardens, the Estate includes an 18th-century mansion, a chapel, 75 event spaces and a Georgian house, which is where the luncheon was held.

Guests arrived to be treated to drinks on the lawn before entering the stunning dining hall, which was decked out in flowers and blue and white balloons to reflect Keeler’s colours. They then listened enraptured as former Managing Director Richard Keeler, whose grandfather founded the company in 1917, spoke eloquently and movingly about the early days of the company, with an emphasis on how its people make the company so special.

Lunch was followed by an awards ceremony for long-standing Keeler employees – of which there are many! The biggest cheer of the day – and a heart-warming standing ovation – went to Judy Meakes, who has been with Keeler for over 50 years.

It’s not an overstatement to say that everyone present went away with a smile and a genuine feeling of pride to be associated with – and contributing to – Keeler.

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Looking forward to the future

Abbas Sotoudeh, Keeler’s Managing Director

At 100 years old, Keeler is looking forward to the future with optimism. With access to the resources of its parent company, Halma plc, Keeler can make bigger strides than it could on its own. It also has access to a valuable resource – people to collaborate with within its sister Halma companies, such as Volk Optical.

Keeler is growing its influence in the Far East (with a strong team in place in China), India and the Middle East. It has local hubs or key distributors, or both, in developing countries.
These hubs are being encouraged to go into local production.

It is also establishing new markets in places like Africa through its links with UK Charities which support African communities; these are the customers of the future.

Keeler’s Managing Director Abbas Sotoudeh says, “We’ve been actively going out, finding out about markets around the world. What do they need and what are their immediate issues? This has really deepened innovation and growth.”

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Keeler helping eyecare project in Malawi

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Keeler has donated an ophthalmoscope/retinoscope set to a group of Cardiff University students for an eyecare trip to Malawi this August. The team of 12 second year undergraduate optometry students will spend a month in the country, providing free vision screenings, donating second-hand spectacles to local communities and teaching refraction to doctors in local hospitals.

“We’ll be will split into two teams of six, with one team based in Blantyre and the other in Lilongwe,” says Sorcha O’Hara, one of the students. “Both teams will be refracting the local community and will have the opportunity to observe ocular surgery and teach refraction within the local hospitals. The Lilongwe team will also give lectures to the hospital staff as well as carrying out sight tests at a local orphanage.

“We’re delighted with Keeler’s donation, which will go a long way to ensuring our mission to Malawi is a success.

“Last year, a similar refraction project in Malawi by Cardiff University students helped over 2,000 Malawians experience the expert level of eye care we take for granted. 1,500 people also received free spectacles, along with free hats and sunglasses for those who suffer with albinism, which is common in Malawi,” concluded Sorcha.

“We’re always very happy to support this kind of charitable work,” says Laura Haverley, Keeler’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “We believe passionately that eye care and preventing vision loss are critical to overall health and quality of life.”

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Keeler celebrates its 100th anniversary in style

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Keeler celebrated its 100th anniversary in style on 2 May with a visit from the Mayor of Windsor, a staff celebration and a huge cake.

“It’s such a landmark for any company to reach 100 years,” said Keeler’s Managing Director Abbas Sotoudeh. “To reach that milestone when the company is in such good shape and with great plans for the future is even more exciting.

“We were delighted to host the Mayor of Windsor, Councillor Sayonara Luxton, to the celebrations, and to show her around our factory. While here she met Judy Meakes, our longest-service member of staff, who has been with Keeler for 53 years and is still going strong. All Keeler’s staff gathered together to celebrate the cutting of the cake, with Judy taking centre-stage.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our employees, partners, customers and suppliers for being part of our success – and we look forward to another 100 years!”

Keeler is the only ophthalmic instrument manufacturer in the UK, specialising in diagnostic and magnification products for professionals in the optical and healthcare industries worldwide. The company, located in the Royal Borough of Windsor, is a world leader in its field and is proud to be flying the flag for UK industry.

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