College of Optical Sciences Receives $10 Million, Largest Gift for Scholarships in UA History

Feb. 5, 2014












TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona's world-renowned College of Optical Sciences has received a $10 million gift for graduate student scholarships, setting a new precedent as the largest gift towards any scholarship in the University's history.   

Professor Emeritus 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 this 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 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 for 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 scholarship gift will help the college to attract the top talent in the nation by providing for a dramatically enriched education and research experience for entering graduate students. According to Koch, this talent is key to producing tomorrow's leaders, and to further accelerating the college's and UA's leadership in the field.

"Jim's contributions to the college have already been tremendous, and now are simply staggering," said Koch. "His gift helps ensure that our legacy of innovation and excellence continues for another 50 years and beyond."

To increase the impact of his gift, Wyant structured the commitment as a four-to-one matching gift offer on donations made to endowments known as FoTO (Friends of Tucson Optics) endowed scholarships.  

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 over a one- to four-year pledge plan — to establish a new scholarship endowment will get a $400,000 match from Wyant and have the privilege to name their scholarship. Thirteen FoTO scholarship endowments have been already established by generous supporters of the college as a result of Wyant's multimillion dollar gift.

Wyant is a pioneer in the field and today is often called upon by many 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 to the University as a professor in 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.

If you would like to make a gift to the FoTO (Friends of Tucson Optics) endowment, you may do so online or by mail. Your gift will be matched four-to-one by James C. Wyant's historic gift.

For more information about giving to the College of Optical Sciences and the FoTO (Friends of Tucson Optics) scholarships, please contact Kaye Rowan at 520-626-8754 or

About the University of Arizona James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences: 

The University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, founded as the Optical Sciences Center, has been shaping the future since 1964 by offering high-quality instruction, cutting-edge research and a solid commitment to the development of the optics industry. OSC remains dedicated to providing the state of Arizona and the nation with an internationally pre-eminent program in all aspects of the study of light. For more information, please visit or call 520-621-6997.

About the University of Arizona Foundation:
The University of Arizona Foundation is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the University of Arizona. Managing an existing asset base of more than $600 million, the UA Foundation has helped generate more than $2 billion in private funding to support the University. Learn more about the Foundation at


Credit line for Wyant portrait: Margy Green, photographer


Kaye Rowan