Services Held for Pioneering Optical Executive Alan Ritter

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GLEN HEAD, N.Y.—Services were held here yesterday for Alan Ritter, a pioneering optical industry executive who was instrumental in creating The Vision Council as well as Vision Expo East and West. He was 81 years old. Ritter was a founder of the Vision Industry Council of America (VICA), the forerunner of The Vision Council. Among his goals was to host a world class optical show in the U.S. and use the profits from the show to promote the industry and eliminate the proliferation of small state and city shows. Ritter helped form VICA as a trade association of industry members who would operate the show.

Ritter was also instrumental in the establishment of Vision Expo East in New York City, suggesting the Javits Center as an appropriate venue and negotiating the first agreement with Cahners-Reed, which later merged with Reed Exhibitions, the co-owner of Vision Expo. An innovative thinker, Ritter recommended that VICA purchase Optifair, one of the only major competitors to VICA at the time, and used the goodwill from Optifair for a new show in California, Vision Expo West.

Ritter was the first chairman of VICA and served in that role for three years. He also served on The Vision Council Board and various committees for many years.

“Alan Ritter was a visionary and transformational leader in the optical industry,” said Ashley Mills, CEO of The Vision Council. “While he will be missed by many, the impact of his ideas and leadership, that have been so instrumental in shaping the industry into the innovative and collaborative community it is today, will continue to reverberate through the vision community for years to come.”

Ritter was born in Queens, N.Y. on October 24, 1938. He attended Freeport High School, where he was a star basketball player and clarinet soloist. He continued his education at Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in business administration. Upon graduation in 1961, he joined the family business, Universal, established by his father, Charles Ritter.

Founded in 1926 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Universal was a simple abrasive material company when Ritter joined. Under his management, the company soon began to transform into a technology-driven firm. Universal brought many new technologies to the optical industry, such as patternless lens edging, high-index plastic anti-reflective lenses, polyurethane polishing pads, sub-micron glass polish.

The company quickly grew, moving to Hicksville, N,Y, in 1970, and in 1984 renamed itself Universal Photonics to better reflect its identity. Growth continued with robust expansion into foreign markets, acquisitions and new product lines. The company, now headquartered in Central Islip, N.Y., operates a second manufacturing facility in Vernon, N.Y. along with seven global offices.

Ritter donated much of his free time to helping non-profit organizations such as Prevent Blindness, Diabetes Research Institute and Bethany House, among many others.

Ritter is survived by his wife Ellen, children Jill Salditt (Richard), Chuck Ritter (Heather) and the late Amy Kowalski (Ken), grandchildren Matthew, Luke, Timothy, Catherine, Charlie, Georgia, Eliza and Alina, great grandaughter, Ophelia, sister Norma Johnson and nephew Neil Johnson.

A memorial service and celebration of Ritter’s life will be held at a later date to be announced soon. Contributions in his name may be made to the Diabetes Research Institute at diabetesresearch.org. To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Alan Ritter, visit the Whitting Funeral Home’s Tribute Store.