Community Spotlight: Five Questions with Dick Whitney

We’re excited to introduce our new Community Spotlight series featuring members of our community who make an impact. Our first article in the series features Dick Whitney, who operates the Optical Heritage Museum in Southbridge. Mr. Whitney’s vast knowledge of the eyeglass industry and the history of Southbridge make him the perfect person to kick off our series!

Here’s Five Questions with Dick Whitney!


1.) What about the optical industry inspired you?

My father worked at American Optical in Southbridge and I grew up learning about the business as a result. When I graduated from UMass Amherst, a I landed a job in the Central Testing Laboratory at American Optical in Southbridge in 1974. This September marked my 42nd year of continuous service in the Eyeglass industry, as I now work for Zeiss who bought American Optical Lens and is now sponsor of the Optical Heritage Museum.

2.) Are there any new updates at the museum?

We are frequently adding to our displays, and have monthly features of new items for viewing based upon themes that are promoted on our Facebook and other social media as well as our website: To take a virtual tour, visit our explore page on the website and click on take a tour!

3.) How have you seen the town of Southbridge change over the years?

When I first started at American Optical, there were 5500 people employed in the Southbridge Facility. As the company downsized, Southbridge certainly was impacted and has gone thru a difficult transition. I know see Southbridge on the upswing. The Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center is an important part of its recovery, and I am very excited to partner with them in promoting Southbridge.

4.) What’s your favorite thing to do in the area?

Southbridge is located in a beautiful area of New England, and we are fortunate to have many parks, walking trails and areas of unparalleled beauty such as the Westville recreation area. We have beautiful buildings and a scenic downtown area, along with the town common across from the Southbridge Hotel and Conference center which is world famous for the AO clock tower and beautiful grounds. I personally enjoy eating at the many fine Restaurants in town such as the Vienna, Metro Bistrot, Marios, and more.

5.) What are you looking forward to the most in 2017?

I am excited to see the Optical Heritage Museum becoming a popular attraction in the area and bringing visitors from around the world to see us. I look forward to what the future hold for the Museum and for Southbridge as I believe both are “hidden gems”.

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