Horace Deal, O.D.
You can see him on the sidelines at Georgia Southern football practice, or perhaps in the Ted Smith Football Operations Center training the athletic trainers on how to assess players with eye injuries. He’s also responsible for examining the vision of Georgia Southern football, basketball and baseball players. Not only does he check the eye sight of athletes, he can help them correct a tendency to have tunnel vision when focusing on the ball during play. Through the Sports Vision Program he makes sure the athletes with vision challenges have a plan for correction and improvement. Employing specialized equipment for evaluating their vision and improving their balance and focus, Dr. Horace Deal keeps an eagle eye of the athletes at Georgia Southern.
A native of Appling County, Dr. Deal grew up on the family farm. His father and mentor, Rollie Deal, farmed all his life and was only able to complete a grade school education. But, he managed to teach Dr. Deal some important life lessons.
“My dad always said, ‘Take care of folks, and folks will take care of you,’” shared Dr. Deal. “That became my philosophy. If I can’t make my patients happy, then I’ll refund their money. If I can’t make them see better, then I don’t want their money.”
Dr. Deal was born the fourth of four boys. The first three sons to Rollie and Roanna Deal were born within seven years. Dr. Deal came along 13 years later, and was reared as an only child with three adult brothers. “I tell my brothers it just took my parents four tries to get it right,” Dr. Deal said.
An excellent student and by his own admission a mediocre farm hand, Dr. Deal was encouraged to pursue a college education. He attended Mercer University in Macon from 1980-1984, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to be,” said Dr. Deal.
One of the head residence hall directors encouraged Dr. Deal to apply for a position at Georgia Southern which had nine jobs available at the time. He applied and interviewed for the position of Hall Director for a men’s dorm. He was hired and served from 1985-1987 with the Housing Department.
“That job paid five digits and a place to stay with cable,” said Dr. Deal, “I think I had to finance my first TV.”
Still trying to decide what to do for a career, Dr. Deal considered law school or getting a master’s degree, but nothing seemed to appeal to him. While working in Student Housing, Dr. Deal followed the lead of other hall directors and spent his summers working at a camp in the North Carolina Mountains known as Blue Star Camp for children aged six to sixteen. For two summers Dr. Deal supervised fourth grade counselors, the third year, he took on sixth grade. They called him back to supervise 20 counselors, then he became Camp Leader and the Program Director. He was in charge of all the children, supervising the counselors, bus trips, and scheduling.
It was at Blue Star Camp that Dr. Deal had a fortuitous encounter with another Camp Supervisor, former Statesboro resident Bill Becker, husband of Optometrist Sherri Becker. Bill encouraged Dr. Deal to look into being an Optometrist. With a degree in history, Dr. Deal calculated that he would have to take four to five years of classes to be eligible. Eventually he made the decision to leave Georgia Southern because he could only take one class a semester as Hall Director.
“I went to West Georgia and finished a degree in chemistry in 1991,” Dr. Deal stated.
While preparing for acceptance into Optometry school, Dr. Deal took the position of Director of Campus Life at Andrew College, a small Methodist school of around 300 students in Cuthbert, Georgia.
In 1993 he was accepted into the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.
With his many years of counseling and guiding campers and students, Dr. Deal felt he had something to offer. “My first year, I was a little older than the other students and I wanted to help out in some way. I ran for Vice President. Nobody qualified to run against me, so they extended the qualification period. Another young lady qualified and won the election.”
During the weeks following the election, Dr. Deal decided to act as if he had been elected anyway and began helping the other students by finding out the ten most often missed questions on final exams. He shared his findings with other students. “We found out that almost every time you could study those ten and do well on the finals,” Dr. Deal said. Before the school year had ended, the president asked Dr. Deal to run for president.
“To get 120 people to agree is impossible,” said Dr. Deal, “but, I did serve as president my second, third and fourth years of optometry school. I learned a lot about dealing with people through that experience. I learned how to compromise to get the best possible outcome. I also was able to work out a test schedule to benefit almost everyone.”
He graduated in 1997, and became aware of two positions back home in Georgia: one in Atlanta and one in Hinesville. He was set on Atlanta but, “I took a backroad, I think the Golden Isles Parkway, to Hinesville, and the closer I got to South Georgia, the more it felt like home to me,” he shared.
He started a practice in Hinesville and was there for three years when Dr. Becker called. She and Bill were moving to Virginia and offered their practice in Statesboro to Dr. Deal. He accepted the offer and now has a home in Statesboro with wife, Caroline, and nine-year-old daughter, Emmaline.
He opened his first Statesboro office on Lester Road, but moved into a newly renovated facility on Savannah Avenue in 2012. “It was a great location and local developer Jamey Cartee was able to not only renovate the building, but he did additional construction towards the road increasing the size of the original building. He also designed and created a very welcoming interior for our patients featuring an attractive area where we are able to sit down with patients and help them choose the most pleasing and functional eye glasses.”
Since opening in May 2012, “the practice has been growing like crazy,” said Dr. Deal. “I’m looking at adding another doctor.”
Even though Dr. Deal stays busy at Vision Source, he manages to sneak out some afternoons in the fall to check on the practicing Georgia Southern football team. A “True Blue” fan, Dr. Deal enjoys watching the players and collecting Georgia Southern football memorabilia. His passion for collecting can be seen in the array of items he has obtained dating from 1982 to the present.
The work he does with Georgia Southern Athletics, “Gives me a variety of things to do beyond my practice,” said Dr. Deal.
In addition to his work at GS, Dr. Deal is involved in many community organizations. He serves as the Optometry Director for the Hearts & Hands Clinic and does pro bono vision work for the Lions Club. He also delivers lectures and presentations to professional organizations on topics ranging from “Sports Vision” to “Diabetes and the Eye.”
Dr. Deal was chosen as the 1999 Georgia Young O.D. of the Year, and was again honored in 2011 as the Georgia O.D. of the Year.
Through his work with Georgia Southern Athletics, Dr. Deal has made an impact on the student athletes’ performance with Dynavision®, a balance awareness and peripheral vision trainer. He also creates individually tailored computer based programs that will improve depth perception and other vision problems for the students.
Dr. Deal has also been working with the University on a study of concussions in football players. “The question is ‘When is it appropriate for them to return to play?’” he said. “The concussion protocol has a vision component. Altered vision will indicate a longer healing time for concussions. Georgia Southern is on the forefront of this research.”
“I really enjoy the fun I have with Georgia Southern Athletics,” said Dr. Deal. “Being a part of a special program like this is very gratifying. I am very thankful to be a part of it all.”