Junior Achievement | Central Illinois Business Hall of Fame

Diana Hall

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Bard Optical

Diana J. Hall was born in Peoria, Illinois, to Clayburn and Betty Barnett.  Diana was the oldest of four children.  She was proudly raised on Trewyn Street on Peoria’s South Side and graduated from Manual High School.  As a teenager, Diana began working at Weisser Jewelry and Optical in downtown Peoria to make some extra money.  Although she graduated in the top ten of her class in 1966, her parents did not have enough money to send her to college.  She opted instead to continue working at Weisser.

Diana married shortly after graduation from high school and welcomed two children in the next four years.  In order to make ends meet for her young family, she worked as many hours as possible at Weisser. A few years later she moved her family to a shared farm outside Canton where she built a home just a few hundred yards from the home built by her parents.  Eventually she got divorced but continued to live on the farm with her children as she took on more and more responsibility at Weisser.

By 1981, Diana was the General Manager at Weisser overseeing the entire company that had 65 locations throughout Illinois.  That summer the owner of Weisser asked Diana to lie about an important issue on his behalf.  Given her high ethical standards, she refused, and it is her belief she was fired due to that refusal.  That same day she went to see Dr. A. Arthur Bard, who had been in practice for 40 years.  Within a few weeks she and two partners purchased Dr Bard’s sole location in the Metro Centre.  After buying out her partners, she continued to grow the business which now has approximately 200 employees with 21 retail offices, a Peoria home office and a full-service laboratory also in Peoria.  Through recessions and increased competition, Diana has expertly guided the company to revenue growth in each and every year since purchasing the company in 1981.  Over the past 50 years Diana has become a powerful voice in the retail optical industry having been recognized by Vision Monday as one of the 20 Most Influential Women in the industry.  She is often asked to comment for articles about the optical industry at the national level.  Bard Optical is currently ranked #35 in the top 50 retail optical chains in the United States.

Diana is famous for continuing to work far more than 40 hours per week even when she says she is  “starting to slow down.”   Diana enjoys spending time hunting for bargains for her DIY projects as well as time with her friends, affectionately known as “The Assets.”  Diana has two children; Mick Hall, a former trial attorney and now Vice President and General Counsel at Bard Optical, and Kim Malone, a teacher at Canton High School and herself a DIY project expert.   Diana has eleven grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.  She continues to put family first and never misses an opportunity to get together with family for her homemade chicken noodles and mashed potatoes.

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