Alumni Spotlight

Donnie Akers, '94

By: Michelle Goff
March 20, 2017

Donnie Akers, O.D., began mapping his career plans in high school.

“I knew I was going to become a doctor, but I didn’t know what kind,” Akers recalls. “And although I was interested in Pikeville College, I wouldn’t have been able to attend without a scholarship. We were not well-to-do. I worked my way through high school so I could have a car.”

Akers did receive a scholarship from Pikeville and that, along with work study and jobs at Kmart and, later, Lowes, helped fund the Floyd County native’s college education.

“I worked while maintaining 17-18 hours of course study as a pre-med and biology/chemistry major,” he says.

Akers also found the time to participate in the college’s academic team. Chair of the Division of Social Sciences Nancy Cade served as team coach. “She was like the campus mom. We could talk to her about anything,” Akers says of Cade. “To this day, we’re very close.”

Akers also became close to professors Ralph Christenson, Glen Brown, and Lois Esham, whom he characterizes as “good mentors.”

“Dr. Christenson was retiring, so I finished my chemistry requirements in four semesters. I wanted to take every class he taught,” Akers recalls. “Dr. Brown wanted me to teach. He told me, ‘I will wait for you to start teaching before I retire. You can have my desk.’”

Following his 1994 graduation, Akers did spend a year at the college teaching physical science lab classes for non-majors.

“I was tempted to go into teaching but the drive to be a doctor was overwhelming,” he explains.

Although Akers shadowed several doctors, the time he spent observing Pikeville optometrist Mark Myers convinced him to pursue a career as an optometrist. He enrolled in the Indiana University School of Optometry, ultimately graduating in 1999.

“Less than a year after being out of school – April 1, 2000 – I was owner and operator of Professional Eye Care in Paintsville,” he says.

Although Akers was happy with his practice, when he heard that UPIKE planned to establish the Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO), he knew he wanted to be a part of the endeavor.

“I love optometry and I love the school,” he says. “It’s my school.”

“After a lot of prayer, a lot of prayer,” and the support of his wife, Robyn, Akers decided to sell his practice and accept a position with KYCO. “My faith is very important to me. This must be the way to go because there has been a seamless transition.”

“You know,” Akers adds, “it’s God’s plan when everything falls into place in an uncanny manner.”

Although he misses his patients, Akers enjoys interacting with students.

“It’s rewarding to see students succeed,” he says. “They struggle at times, but they’ve taken the initiative to meet professors and they’re getting over their intimidation and anxiety. They’re very receptive.”

Akers hopes he will have the positive impact on students that his professors had on him.

“When I came back on interview day, Nancy Cade and (Dean of the Coleman College of Business) Howard Roberts were sitting there to support me. They told me they were proud of what I had accomplished. They made me feel welcome. Coming back was easier than expected.”

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