$10M Gift to Optical Sciences is Largest Gift for Scholarships in UA History

Feb. 5, 2014

The gift from James C. Wyant, professor emeritus of optical sciences, will help the college attract the top talent in the nation.

Wyant with Student

James C. Wyant with Maria Ruiz, a first-year graduate student at the College of Optical Sciences. She is the current recipient of the Louise Wyant Memorial Scholarship in Optical Sciences.

The University of Arizona's world-renowned College of Optical Sciences has received a $10 million gift for graduate student scholarships, the largest gift toward any scholarship in the University's history.  

Professor Emeritus of Optical Sciences James C. Wyant – who is well-known throughout the optics industry for his academic and professional society leadership, profound expertise and establishment of several commercial enterprises – made the gift in celebration of the college's 50th anniversary. 

"Jim Wyant's leadership has been remarkable, and the College of Optical Sciences is a major point of pride for the University of Arizona," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "Jim's gift provides fantastic opportunities for our students to excel in their studies and to conduct the kind of ground-breaking research that is certain to impact all of our lives."  

Since 1964, the College of Optical Sciences has grown as a center of innovation and interdisciplinary research. It is now the largest and most diverse academic optics education and research program in the nation. It is also a prolific producer of intellectual property, bringing in a substantial fraction of the UA's patents and licenses in recent years.

"The College has shaped the field of optics with advances in imaging systems for scientific, medical, industrial and defense applications, and research increasing the speed of the Internet, improving technologies for solar energy, and innovating better ways to detect and diagnose cancer," said Thomas L. Koch, dean of the College of Optical Sciences. "Discoveries in optics not only provide cutting-edge tools for the laboratory, but also influence the creation of everyday products."   

Wyant's gift will help the college attract the top talent in the nation.

"Jim's contributions to the college have already been tremendous, and now are simply staggering," Koch said.

Wyant's gift is being offered as a 4-to-1 matching gift on donations made to endowments known as FoTO, or Friends of Tucson Optics, endowed scholarships. Each endowment will cover tuition and fees for a graduate student plus a $20,000 annual stipend.  

While contributions at any level to the FoTO scholarship general fund will be matched, single donors, or a group of donors, making a $100,000 gift – either outright or through a one- to four-year pledge – to establish a new scholarship endowment will get a $400,000 match from Wyant and have the privilege of naming the new scholarship. Thirteen FoTO scholarship endowments already have been established by generous supporters as a result of Wyant's gift.

Wyant is a pioneer in the field and is often called upon by companies, universities and professional societies throughout the world. He co-founded several businesses, including the WYKO Corp. and Tucson's 4D Technology Corp., where he continues to serve as chairman.  

Wyant arrived at the UA as a professor of optical sciences in 1974.  In 1999, he was named director of what was then the Optical Sciences Center and became the founding dean when the center became a college in 2005.  

During his tenure as dean, he oversaw tremendous growth in research as well as the expansion of the Meinel Optical Sciences Building, which added 47,000 square feet of state-of-the-art teaching and research space. He stepped down in 2012 but continues teaching as a professor emeritus.


James C. Wyant


More information about the FoTO scholarships and the Principals of Opticks scholarship endowment society – a donor recognition group for people who have committed to supporting a scholarship endowment with a gift of $75,000 or more – are available on the College of Optical Sciences website.


Kaye Rowan
College of Optical Sciences