“I always said that if I served the community, they would come back to me.”
– Dr. Marvin Poston


Marvin R. Poston, OD
Learn About his Legacy
Marvin R. Poston, OD
Learn About his Legacy

The core philosophy of Dr. Marvin Poston, one the founders of California Vision Services, which would evolve into Vision Service Plan (VSP) and ultimately VSP Global, is a touchstone for our business practices today. Whether providing eye care and eyewear through a number of charitable programs to those living in underserved communities or affected by disasters, ensuring patients have access to high-quality vision services, or providing doctors with the tools they need to maintain successful private practices, this dedication to service can be directly attributed to the core philosophies of Dr. Poston.

Dr. Poston

1914 - 2002

Dr. Poston was a longtime contributor to the city of Oakland, California, beginning in 1929 when the Poston family migrated from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As an academic scholar at Oakland Technical High School and University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry, he was dedicated to the educational development of vision health of the San Francisco Bay Area; the advancement of the Black community; the profession of optometry, and the success of the Napa Valley wine industry. Each of his successes was testimony to his determination to move beyond any immediate obstacle or systemic bias.

Read about Dr. Poston's achievements in an extensive interview in The Boule Journal, a publication of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the first Black Greek-letter fraternity (February 1980) and "VSP Remembers Dr. Poston at his Passing" (2002).

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"Dr. Poston’s mission as a humanitarian, Master of Optometry, and family man leaves a legacy of accomplishment through his own perseverance and the joy of seeing other’s persevere toward (achieving) their goals. For those of us who knew him, he was the soft-spoken man who frequently shared his insights so that, together, each of us could achieve our shared and individual dreams. As a father he was relentless in guiding the success of his children in achieving our goals. He was proud of his accomplishments, but never smug about his gains. Education was the hallmark of his daily life, always sharing his belief in its ever-increasing value; the more you have the better we all are. He was the master strategist for navigating the obstructive behavior of others but saw little value in holding a grudge. He served each of his communities with commitment and wisdom. (Dr.) Poston was ever the leader, the gatherer of colleagues and friends, never discarding them along the way."
- Marlene Poston Bell, Dr. Poston's daughter

Berkeley School of Optometry

Before anyone had coined or understood the meaning of the word diversity, became the first Black student to graduate from the Berkeley School of Optometry in 1939 -- and it would take another 23 years for the second Black student to follow in his footsteps.

First Black optometrist

First Black optometrist to practice west of the Rockies, opening his San Francisco Bay Area, California offices in Oakland in 1941 and in Danville in 1964.

Founding of Children’s Vision Center of the East Bay

Along with Dr. Leonard Purcell and Dr. Harvey Arnold, spearheaded the founding of Children’s Vision Center of the East Bay, serving children not covered by other eye care programs.

West Oakland Health Center

Organized the Eye Clinic connected to the West Oakland Health Center, which continues its mission today as a non-profit community health center, providing comprehensive primary and preventive medical, dental, eye, and mental health care to community members, regardless of their ability to pay. Its goal is to provide the best in health care delivery in a way that allows patients to be informed and involved in all health care decisions.

California Vision Services

Joined with Doctors of Optometry Bernhardt N. Thal, Richard C. Peters, Harold F. McCartor, Roy H. Brandreth, Stanley A. Poulsen, Lester A. Fourness, Nathaniel S. West, and Henry B. Peters on October 17, 1955 to create California Vision Services, which would evolve into Vision Service Plan (VSP) and ultimately VSP Global. The company was the first to offer a prepaid, vision benefit that provided high quality, cost-effective eyecare. VSP Vision Care has since grown to become the only national not-for-profit eye healthcare provider in the nation, covering every 1 in 4 people in the US.

First Black president of the Alameda-Contra Costa Optometric Society

The first Black president of the Alameda-Contra Costa Optometric Society (1960) and the California Optometric Association (1963). (Pictured with incoming Alameda-Contra Costa Optometric Society president Ray Can.)

Appointed by Governor Edmund Pat Brown

Appointed by Governor Edmund Pat Brown as the first Black member and then president of the California State Board of Optometry. Reappointed by Governor Ronald Regan, serving a total of ten years, authoring the core licensing exam, Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye during his tenure.

First CA Black Optometrist honored

Became the first Black optometrist honored as Optometrist of the Year by the California Optometric Association, National Optometric Association, and American Optometric Association in 1972.

Created Optometric Planning Service (OPS)

Conscious of what new optometric graduates need to get started in private practice, created Optometric Planning Service (OPS) in 1978, a company that gave young optometric students access to the resources necessary to start their businesses properly. OPS evolved into Professional Health Management & Planning Services, Inc., which provided services for professionals new to a variety of healthcare fields.

UC Berkeley, School of Optometry Hall of Fame

Inducted into the UC Berkeley, School of Optometry Hall of Fame, posthumously, in 2007.

VSP annouced Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award in 2004

Posthumously honored with the naming of the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award in 2014 when VSP announces Alexis Broussard, a 2nd-year optometry student and president of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) chapter at Nova Southeastern University, College of Optometry in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as the first-ever winner. Today, the $4,000 scholarship is awarded to four optometric students per year in association with the National Optometric Association (NOA) which is comprised primarily of underrepresented minority optometrists and students of optometry (particularly Black) throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.


All photos and videos of Dr. Marvin R. Poston are owned by and used courtesy of the Poston family and the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Foundation.