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Mitchell C. Ruda, optical designer

10 September 2013

Mitch RudaMitchell C. Ruda, President and founder of Ruda-Cardinal, Inc., died on August 31, 2013, in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 63. Dr. Ruda was widely known in the optics world for his expertise in optical alignment, optical design, and optical testing.

A Fellow of SPIE since 1989, Dr. Ruda had taught a well-attended alignment course at SPIE conferences since 1984 and chaired conference sessions on optical alignment. His work at Ruda-Cardinal included business development and providing input and guidance for all projects in the areas of optical and opto-mechanical design, alignment and assembly of optical systems, and optical testing. His teaching skills were applied to the mentoring of young employees at Ruda-Cardinal for the purpose of providing for the long-term stability of the company. He holds 7 U.S. patents in the field of optics.

Dr. Ruda was born on May 29, 1950, in New York City, the first child of Albert and Florence Ruda. His father worked in the garment industry and his mother worked as a bookkeeper. As a teenager, Mitch attended Stuyvesant High School, a New York City school known for producing highly excelling graduates. Four Nobel laureates have graduated from Stuyvesant, along with several other notable people, too numerous to mention. Even though he lived in the city, Mitch became fascinated with astronomy. This eventually led him to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, and a class in telescope making. 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. Degree in Optics from the University of Arizona, Optical Sciences Center in 1979.

After obtaining his Master's degree, he found an open position as a Research Associate at the Optical Sciences Center. This position had been previously held by Dr. Richard A. Buchroeder. Dr. Ruda's main activity in this position involved the tolerancing of the Multiple Mirror Telescope on Mt. Hopkins near Tucson. Another activity was the design, construction, and testing of a laser transmitter/receiver for a highly visible military project. The experience that he gained from this and other projects provided him with valuable experience in all areas of classical optical engineering, including opto-mechanical design. This provided an important foundation for his later work in the business world. Following his Ph. D., he took a position as Vice President with Talandic Research Corporation, then of Pasadena, California. Dr. Ruda worked in a one-man Tucson branch of the company. His work there involved the development of optics business and the development of various optical systems for commercial and government clients (including the Hubble repair project). During this time he also worked independently on the development of REVO sunglasses.

By 1994, the Tucson branch of Talandic had grown to a total of 4 persons. At this point, Dr. Ruda decided to form an independent company, known as Ruda and Associates, Inc., based on these 4 persons. Under Dr. Ruda's guidance, Ruda and Associates developed optical systems for the garment and automotive industries, for weather satellites, for the lithography industry, and provided consulting for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Projects branched out into the areas of non-imaging concentrators and gradient-index optics. Demand for rapid prototyping led to the addition of staff (in an independent branch of the company called Cardinal Optics, Inc.) in 2000 for the purpose of developing complete optical systems from initial concepts through all aspects of design and assembly/alignment. Later the two companies merged and the name was changed to Ruda-Cardinal, Inc. Work followed in the areas of military surveillance (Argus IS) and fire-control systems (GMS2), pilot night vision systems, hyperspectral systems, panoramic systems, zoom systems, consulting for NIF, and much more. Dr. Ruda provided valuable input into all of these projects until his final few weeks.

In his role as President of Ruda-Cardinal, Mitch always cared for his employees' well-being and encouraged their new and original contributions to the company. Those who had the privilege of working and interacting with him professionally saw that his knowledge of optics was deep and sprang from a genuine love of knowledge and a willingness to perform the hard work to attain this knowledge. His interests ranged far beyond optics into the areas of skiing, music, cooking, woodworking, bicycling, and more. His friendship and guidance will be missed by all who knew him.

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.