Mad Dog 20/20
James Ogden ’72, OD ’73 was never much for the party scene — and his classmates knew it.
In his second year of optometry school at Pacific University, Ogden went to a party at a local brewery. He drank a tame two glasses of beer and left.
The next day, he was regaled with tales of his own supposed exploits, how he’d gotten “falling down drunk” and wound up in the hands of a SWAT team. His classmates teasingly gave him the antithetical nickname “Mad Dog.”
“It was sort of like calling the bald guy ‘Curly,’” Ogden said. “It stuck.”
Thirty years later, those same classmates put the affectionate misnomer to another use: a scholarship fund for future optometry students in Dr. Ogden’s name.
“I knew nothing about it,” Ogden said. “It was a huge surprise.”
Since graduation, Ogden has been the driving force in keeping his cohort of classmates connected, regardless of where they have journeyed. Each year, he reaches out to his peers for their news, compiles their life milestones, and sends out a class newsletter during the holiday season.
“So we’ve all stayed together maybe a little better than other classes,” he said.
At their 30th class reunion in 2003, his classmates honored his efforts by unveiling the Mad Dog Scholarship Fund. The fund reached the endowment level in 2009 and offered its first scholarship to an optometry student in 2010.
Since then, “Mad Dog” has gone out of his way to connect with the scholarship recipients, just as he has with his classmates.
“I have made it a point to go meet every one of them,” Ogden said. “I had a friend who lived to be almost 98, who said, ‘If you don’t want to be a lonely old person, make lots of young friends.’ I like interacting with bright young minds.”
For recipient Jessica Thornton OD ’18, the connection is even more important than the monetary support.
Thornton did her undergraduate studies at University of California, Davis, and was drawn to Pacific by the small, nurturing environment.
“Mainly the sense of community,” she said. “It was like a nice, big supportive family.”
Dr. Ogden has continued that family feel, she said. He hosts a dinner for his scholarship recipients and other students he knows from optometry mission trips through the student organization, Amigos.
“Right around finals last year, he sent me a letter, saying he was thinking of me,” Thornton said. “And he sent a gift card to Starbucks. He didn’t really even know me, and he has shown me such support.”
Nick Blight OD ’17 says the personal connection has been a standout of the Mad Dog Scholarship.
“Obviously the monetary contribution is always a good thing,” Blight said. “But even beyond that, Dr. Ogden has been such an amazing resource, because he’s been so involved.”
Ogden arranged for Blight and others to observe a cataract surgery, and Blight and his wife have even had Ogden over for Sunday dinner.
“He’s just been really involved with me on a personal level, as well as a professional level,” Blight said.
Ogden says he enjoys getting to know a new generation of students and helping them enter the profession of optometry.
“I’m still practicing after 42 years because I want to,” he said. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing right now, and I hope that others can get into the profession and enjoy it as much as I have.”■
This story first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Pacific Magazine. For more stories, visit pacificu.edu/magazine.