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SPIE joins OSC in celebrating attainment of scholarship goal at Photonics West

Arizona optics college caps 50th anniversary observance with announcement of meeting fundraising goal in only 18 months

22 February 2015

Thomas Koch, Dean of the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center
Thomas Koch, Dean of the University
of Arizona Optical Sciences Center
SPIE 2015 President Toyohiko Yatagai
SPIE President Toyohiko Yatagai
(Utsunomiya University)

BELLINGHAM, Washington, and SAN FRANCISCO, California, USA -- Last year, during SPIE Photonics West 2014, Dean Thomas Koch and faculty, friends, and alumni of the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences (OSC) celebrated an enthusiastic launch of an ambitious fundraising campaign enabled by a historic donation. They hoped, they said then, to meet the campaign goal within six years.

However, a delighted Koch announced at a reception during SPIE Photonics West 2015 in San Francisco earlier this month that the campaign goal of raising $12.5 million via a matching-grants program already has been met, after just 18 months. The announcement served as capstone to the college's 50th anniversary, he noted.

Approximately 275 donors collectively raised $2.5 million in matching donations in response to a $10 million challenge from James Wyant, professor emeritus and founding dean of the college. With the funds, OSC has established 27 new endowed scholarships for optics graduate students, raising the total to 30.

When the scholarship plan was shared over breakfast with backers at Photonics West 2014, SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs and then-President Philip Stahl worked with other society leaders to provide a $100,000 grant -- the basis for a full scholarship -- that was presented that evening when the program was publicly announced.

"SPIE congratulates the college on meeting this fundraising challenge in such a short time. Along with the other donors -- who include SPIE Fellows, Members, and Past Presidents such as Dr. Wyant himself -- we know the important role OSC plays in educating new generations of scientists and engineers who will change the world through application of optics and photonics," said SPIE President Toyohiko Yatagai. "The strong support for this program is a testament to past excellence and a show of confidence for future achievements. It is very fitting that we should see this at the same time the world is celebrating the International Year of Light."

In committing $10 million in scholarship funds in 2013, Wyant said his vision was to help students through their first, and most challenging, year of graduate study. He structured his gift as a 4-to-1 offer to encourage others to participate.

Each of the new scholarship funds will award a stipend of $20,000 to first-year graduate students, and the university will waive tuition for all 30 of the scholarship recipients.

Donors to the scholarship campaign, dubbed Friends of Tucson Optics, or FoTO, include optics alumni and faculty, as well as industry business leaders, an optics industry association and even faculty from other prominent universities. A graduate student, who wishes to remain anonymous, established a scholarship in a war hero's name, hoping that it would inspire fellow students to courageously pursue excellence in their careers.

John Hayes, who received his doctorate from the college in 1984, and his wife, Jane Quale, bookended the campaign by funding the first two scholarships and recently the 30th and final one.

"Optics is an exciting technology that touches almost everything we do," Hayes said. "Our high-tech world would not be possible without the understanding and technology enabled by optical science."

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 235,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided $3.4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014.

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