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SPIE Professional April 2014

SPIE donates to Wyant scholarship program for optics students at University of Arizona

Image of SPIE Fellow James C. Wyant

SPIE is among 15 individuals and groups who have endowed graduate student scholarships at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences (OSC), all made possible by a $10 million gift from optics entrepreneur and educator James C. Wyant, past OSC dean and emeritus professor.

SPIE and 14 others each donated at least $100,000 to enable newly created or existing endowments through the new Friends of Tucson Optics (FoTO) program. Wyant, an SPIE Fellow and a past SPIE president, is making a 4-to-1 matching gift for each $100,000 donated, up to $10 million.

The payout on each endowment provides grad student support in perpetuity at about $20,000 annually, and the university is donating grad student tuition and fees as part of the scholarships.

SPIE President H. Philip Stahl presented the society’s $100,000 donation at OSC’s 50th anniversary celebration held during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco in February. Stahl, a UA alumnus, noted the many connections among OSC alumni, faculty, and SPIE membership, and he stressed the society’s delight in being able to support the college by enabling an endowed scholarship.

Wyant’s gift, the largest for scholarships in the university’s history, comes at a time when decreases in public funding for education have resulted in dramatically increased tuition costs, said SPIE member Thomas Koch, dean of OSC, in making the announcement. The FoTO scholarships will enable OSC to continue to attract top students and are vital to the college’s continued contributions to leading research and new R&D partnerships, Koch said.

SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs personally thanked Wyant for his generosity. “SPIE is very much in support of education, and we see this as an investment in the future of optics and photonics,” Arthurs said. “Thank you for providing the opportunity to contribute in this very meaningful way.”

Wyant has founded several companies including WYKO and 4D Technology Corp., where he continues to serve as chairman.

Wyant, a professor emeritus, has been at UA for 40 years. In 1999, he was named director of what was then the Optical Sciences Center, and he became the founding dean when the center became a college in 2005.


Stahl, Wyant, and Koch with the SPIE donation.

The other FoTO scholarships were donated by:

  • Michel Cagnet
  • The DeMund Foundation
  • SPIE Senior Member Robert M. Edmund
  • SPIE Fellow Joseph W. Goodman
  • John B. Hayes and Jane C. Quale
  • Lawrence A. Johnson
  • SPIE Fellow Kenneth E. and Michele L. Moore
  • SPIE Fellow Jacobus “Jim” and Michelle L. Oschmann
  • SPIE Fellow Roland V. Shack
  • Richard L. Shoemaker
  • John Tipton
  • Family of SPIE Fellow William L. Wolfe
  • Willis Lamb Jr.
  • Wyant, in memory of his late wife, Louise Wyant
Other SPIE scholarships for optics education

SPIE provided $3.2 million in support of photonics education and outreach programs in 2013, including more than $390,000 in scholarships to 161 outstanding individuals.

Individual optics scholarships range from $2,000 to $11,000 and include travel scholarships for students planning to attend an SPIE conference.

Deadlines are typically in February. Awards are for the future year.

Read more information on SPIE scholarships.


DOI: 10.1117/2.4201404.07

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