Dereniak Named 2013 Alumnus of the Year at the University of Arizona and College of Optical Sciences

Oct. 24, 2013
Dereniak Headshot 2

International Expert in Infrared Optical Systems Contributes to Breakthroughs in Medicine, Military and Defense Hardware and Astronomy

TUCSON, Ariz. — Eustace L. Dereniak, an internationally recognized expert in infrared detectors and systems, has been named 2013 Alumnus of the Year by the University of Arizona and its world-ranked College of Optical Sciences in recognition of his cutting-edge research, professional leadership and extensive contributions to optics and photonics education.

Dereniak was born in Standish, Mich., and received his education from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich., and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. In the 1960s, he worked in the aerospace industry in Los Angeles on projects related to space optics in the era when the NASA Apollo 11 mission put the first man on the moon in 1969. 

In the late 1960s, the aerospace industry, however, was struggling and Dereniak was alert to opportunities to work at the interface between electrical and optical engineers to improve imaging quality in aerospace systems. He decided to leave industry and pursue his doctorate in a promising new optics program at the University of Arizona.

The UA College of Optical Sciences, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, became home base for Dereniak's remarkable career as a professor and researcher after completing his doctorate in 1976. Now in his fourth decade at the college, Dereniak has enjoyed contributing to the college's rise to become one of the world's leading institutions for research and education in optical science and engineering. He has mentored a combined 65 master's and doctoral students. He also had an influential role in the development of the college's undergraduate program and was awarded the College of Optical Sciences Award of Distinction for Undergraduate Teaching in 2006.

In appreciation for his foundational role in their success, several of his former students recently joined the Dereniak family in establishing the Eustace L. Dereniak Friends and Family Endowed Scholarship in Optical Sciences. This permanent endowment will award a scholarship annually to a deserving student whose interests are in infrared systems and optical engineering.     

"The College of Optical Sciences is globally known for its outstanding teaching and research programs," said Thomas L. Koch, dean of the college. "While this reputation stems from the brilliance of our students and the dedication and expertise of our faculty, it is also our alumni who have driven our success. Eustace is the perfect personification of these in all three dimensions, as a student, an alumnus, and as a valued faculty member. His extraordinary accomplishments and dedication to his career makes him most deserving of this prestigious honor."

"Eustace is well known throughout the optics industry as a world-leading expert in infrared optical systems and detectors," said James C. Wyant, a fellow professor at the college and its former dean. "He has authored five books on infrared and geometrical systems, is an extraordinary teacher, and is also one of our most exceptional and accomplished graduates."

Recently Dereniak's stature in the field was recognized through his election to assume the 2012 presidency of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. He is the only UA alumnus to have held this prestigious position, and in his 33 years with SPIE he has also served on and chaired several committees and served as a member of SPIE's board of directors.

In addition to his work as an educator, Eustace Dereniak's recognition stems from his many research advances. His research has contributed to breakthroughs in medicine, military and defense hardware, and astronomy, to name a few. Among his many projects are his contributions to intelligence-gathering aircraft, camouflage systems and snapshot image spectrometers that detect missiles launched at tanks. In 2009, he was honored by the U.S. Army with the Commander's Award for Public Service for his extensive work with the U.S. Military Academy while he was teaching at West Point.

He has published nearly 100 papers and five books, including Infrared Detectors and Systems (Wiley-Interscience, 1996); appeared at dozens of conferences; and received two patents. As an influential leader in the professional scientific community, Dereniak is a fellow in both the Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. In 2010, OSA bestowed him with the Esther Hoffman Beller Medal for his outstanding contributions to science and engineering education.

Eustace and his wife, Barbara, live in Tucson, Ariz.

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.


Kaye Rowan