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In memoriam: Mitch Ruda, optical systems designer

SPIE Fellow, long-time professional development instructor

09 September 2013

Mitch Ruda
Mitch Ruda
(Ruda-Cardinal photo)

Optical designer Mitch Ruda, a Fellow of SPIE since 1989 and a long-time course instructor at Society events, died in Tucson on 31 August. He was 63.

Dr. Ruda had broad experience covering the complete range of optical system design, engineering, fabrication, testing, and evaluation. He was responsible for the development of numerous optical systems, including refracting and all-reflecting, aspheric, on-and-off-axis optical systems for use in the UV, visible and infrared regions for consumer, commercial, industrial, laboratory and space-based use. He contributed his expertise to a variety of program areas, including laser communications, laser radar, space-based pointing and tracking, projection lithography, hyperspectral imaging and others.

He was president of Ruda-Cardinal in Tucson, an outgrowth of Ruda & Associates, founded in 1994. His course on optical alignment techniques was a staple at SPIE events, and he taught SPIE professional development courses for nearly three decades.

Ruda & Associates played a role in an optics "Oscar." The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave the 2009 Technology Achievement award to Steve Hylén of SmARTlens for technology which Ruda's firm helped develop. He developed the Revo Sunglasses, and was a primary consultant on the repair of the Hubble Telescope. He held four U.S. patents and one European patent in lasers and optics, and was a member of Title II review committee for National Ignition Facility.

At age 14 he completed his first telescope, and thus had an early start into the field of optics. He went on to receive his B.S. degree in Astrophysics from Colgate University in 1971, his M.S. degree in Optics from the University of Rochester in 1973, and his Ph.D. in Optics from the University of Arizona, Optical Sciences Center in 1979.

Ruda's remarkable energy and larger-than-life personality were remembered by several colleagues. Kathleen Perkins (Univ. of Arizona) called him a "one-man band," and Don O'Shea of Georgia Tech said "Mitch was a force of nature, and I'm glad I knew him."

Perkins added that Ruda's daughter Arielle was his pride and joy -- "then optics. Next, his catalog of 1,000+ jokes, all from memory."

Stuart Singer of Schneider Optics, a friend for 25 years, called Ruda "the older brother I never had."

Al Greynolds of Ruda-Cardinal, who presented two papers at the just-concluded SPIE Optics + Photonics symposium in San Diego, ended his presentations with the following dedication to Ruda:

"His keen optical, mechanical, and business insights will be sorely missed by all who worked with him. On a more personal note, he was an articulate mentor, a first-rate 'boss' with a great sense of humor, and most importantly a friend of nearly 40 years."

Ruda is survived by his wife, Wendy, and his daughter, Arielle. A memorial service in his honor will be held Friday, September 27, at 3 pm in the Franken Conference Room (Meinel Bldg., Room 821) at the University of Arizona, College of Optical Sciences in Tucson.

Extended obituary: Mitchell C. Ruda