From Classmates to Business Owners to Spouses A 25-Year Journey
Dr. Claudia Gonzalez and Dr. Michael Higgins met during their first year of optometry school. Her last name started with a “G” and his with an “H.” Fatefully, they were in the same class and sat in alphabetical order. Claudia was drawn to Michael’s sense of humor and teased him about his drawings. Michael enjoyed how Claudia seemed to be full of life. Plus, the fact that she was pretty didn’t hurt, either. The duo began dating and both graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1992. For Michael, it was a lifelong goal realized. Since he was in eighth grade, he had a dream of becoming an optometrist. Claudia, meanwhile, always knew she wanted to go into the medical field, but the specific area of expertise eluded her until she began her higher education. After graduation, Michael was set to open a practice in Butler with another optometrist who happened to be from the area. Engaged and interested in perfecting their craft, Michael and Claudia moved to Butler — where they knew no one — and began working part-time jobs as the practice started up. Soon, the other optometrist backed out, and Michael turned to the partner he had chosen for life: Claudia. When we opened Stirling Eyecare 25 years ago, we were flying by the seat of our pants. Fresh out of optometry school and just one month shy of marrying, we were naive, but passionate, about what we were doing. More than two decades, one marriage, another optometrist, and two sons later, we feel pretty confident in our choice to practice in Butler. We opened our practice together in November of 1993, and one month later, we married on Dec. 4. We really took each day as it came to us as new Butler residents and young, first-time business owners. We were just happy to be fitting people for glasses and contacts — the stuff we had trained for so long to do. Since then, we’ve grown to understand the need for holistic patient care, and we’ve focused on what’s best for our patients. We’ve seen the industry grow in its technology, testing, and treatments, and we’re excited to continue offering the best for our patients. But we couldn’t have done this without our fantastic staff and the community we’ve come to love. Our staff helped us grow; they took on our mission of patient-centered care and ran with it. And the community has welcomed us with open arms. When we first moved here, we
became active in a local church, St. Fidelis, and Claudia joined a women’s group to meet new friends. Our landlord was a well-known businessman who helped us tremendously in those early years, as well. Sometimes we look back on the last two decades with amazement. We’ve had two sons, Justin and Nathan, and we have continued to plant roots here in Butler. Our business has taken on another optometrist, as Dr. Amanda Frye joined us one year ago. Ironically, she’s also married to an optometrist, Brett, who knew from a young age that he wanted to be an eye doctor. Talk about a small world. (You can read more about Dr. Frye on Page 2 of this newsletter!) We’re excited to keep growing and expanding as we continue our passion of serving you and your families. Who knows where we’d be right now without your support — well, that and alphabetical seating.
–Dr. Claudia Gonzalez and Dr. Michael Higgins
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