Chris Borgman, OD ’10, calls himself many things- “young punk,” “old man,” “country boy,” “blessed,” and even “the world’s cheapest man.” Despite his many faces, he’s only ever wanted to be in one field: optometry. “I literally have not changed my mind since I was a sophomore in high school. I’m doing what I always thought I would.”
Though Borgman has only been out of school for 5 years, he has been both a practicing optometrist and a teacher to aspiring ODs. When asked about his move to academia, he glows, “What better place to make an impact on optometry? I was designed and meant for academics.”
Borgman visited ICO’s campus for Homecoming 2015. Amidst events like a Blind Spot, Sox Game, and CE on the effects of cannabis, he was recognized with an award. He is our Young Alumnus of the Year– an honor well deserved.
We followed Borgman through the excitement of Homecoming Saturday.
Photos by Aaron Ross. Interview by Lauren Faits.
“Any time I get the chance to walk on campus, I think, ‘I can’t believe I’m back!’ It’s kind of like opening a Christmas present.”
“In 2012, [Connie Scavuzzo] asked if I’d sit in at the Student/Alumni Mingle. At the time, I was in private practice in Des Moines. I knew being a ‘young punk’ out of school, I’d probably have some good insight into what the students would be facing. I really wanted to share my experience and knowledge… help them avoid some mistakes I made.”
“Now that I’m in academics and seeing students every day, I am a huge proponent for advocating for students. The ones that really care and ask the questions- I’ll sit there and talk to them all day. I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping the students find their passion.”
“My wife [Becky] would tell you that I’m the world’s cheapest man. Truly, truly I am. We grew up not poor, but not well off, by any means. We had to work hard. Being in Chicago, how could you not ride something as iconic as the L? That’s just part of the Chicago experience!”
“Dr. Jeff Smith has very, very cool and interesting decorating taste… he had the bathroom remodeled. You walk in, and there’s this automated toilet with a remote control attached to it. My wife and I literally just stood there and watched this toilet go up and down a bunch of times. ‘This is so awesome…’ I can’t tell you how generous that guy has been to me.”
“I only own one suit. My roots are very blue collar. I usually don’t have a reason to wear a full suit, so it was really easy to pick out. I ask my wife, ‘Do this shirt and tie go together?’ If she’s not going to be embarrassed by how I look, I say ‘OK!’’
“Becky has always said, ‘Chicago is our city.’ When she heard I won the award, she didn’t even ask if she could go. She was like ‘No, I’m coming.’ She has been an absolutely wonderful support system in everything in my life- especially career-wise. She’s probably my biggest fan, to be honest. I lucked out.”
“We had some fertility issues with our first child. Lo and behold, we got Lydia. We had to go through specialists and all that. Through the process, we kind of both found our faith. When Elyse came around- completely normal, no process, we asked, ‘Who in the Bible has a fertility struggle?’ Zechariah and Elizabeth- a tie-in to the struggles we felt early in our marriage and in our careers.”
“When we were students and had zero dollars, we had bikes. My wife and I would ride our bikes from ICO to Navy Pier. One of our favorite things to do is people watch; Navy Pier is a great place for that.”
“To be honest, I was shocked when I got the phone call. I would’ve never guessed that my name would be considered for something as cool as that. I was very grateful and humbled that they thought of me.”
“As we were getting packed up and the boat got docked, we had some ICO icons come up and say ‘Hi:’ Drs. Block, Colip, Hodur, the Messners… they wanted to know when I was coming back to ICO to teach. Huge compliment! I really enjoy where I’m at, but I never close any doors. You never know where life will take you.”