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In memoriam: Robert F. Novak, optical fabrication educator

10 December 2014

Robert F. NovakBob Novak, past chair of the Optical Technology Department at Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, died on 6 December at age 67.

Novak went to MCC first as an optics student and later, in 1971, as an instructor in the optical technology program. Over the next several years, he quickly rose through the ranks to become acting chair/chair of the Optical Technology Department beginning in 1975-76 and associate professor in 1979. He stepped down as chair of the Engineering Technologies Department in 2006 but remained with the college until his retirement in 2008. During his tenure, the department flourished and became a national force in the field of optics education.

His focus was always on students, connecting them to internships and job opportunities and ensuring that they were prepared for immediate employment. He reached out to employers for their assistance in keeping the curricula and labs updated and developed education and training tailored for incumbent workers. He also encouraged younger students to consider pursuing optics careers.

Beginning in 1988, Novak regularly taught short courses in optical fabrication and manufacturing for SPIE, and he also served on the board of directors of the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster. He served on several program committees for SPIE Optifab, the biannual event in Rochester.

Upon his retirement, Novak was accorded the rank of associate professor emeritus, and he continued to work part time at MCC for a few years.

Jay Kumler, President of JENOPTIK Optical Systems (Jupiter, FL) and past president of the American Precision Optics Manufacturers Association (APOMA), underscored Novak's contributions to the field.

"APOMA, SPIE and the precision optics industry in North America [have] lost a friend and influential giant in our industry," he said.

He is survived by wife Linda, son Brett (Heather), granddaughter Nadia, aunts, cousins and a niece. Donations in his memory may be made to Livonia Ambulance Fund, PO Box 8, Livonia, NY 14487 USA.

Robert Novak obituary (New York Photonics Industry website)