John Paul Schaefer Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences Created to Benefit the University of Arizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences

Sept. 20, 2019








TUCSON, Ariz. — The Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Research Corporation Technologies Inc. to provide financial support for scientific research and educational programs, has endowed a chair in optical sciences at the University of Arizona and named it in honor of UA President Emeritus John Paul Schaefer.

The Cottrell Foundation's gift of $500,000, combined with $1.5 million from the University's Distinguished Endowed Chair fund in Optical Sciences Fund, will endow the chair at $2 million. James C. Wyant, the college's founding dean, and his family established the Distinguished Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences fund with a $20 million gift last November. The fund – created to help the college recruit a minimum of 10 stellar faculty – was to be used to augment gifts; when a donor or a donor group offers $500,000 to create a new, named endowed faculty chair, Wyant agreed to transfer $1.5 million from the Distinguished Endowed Chair fund into a separate endowment in the College of Optical Sciences.

Establishing the John Paul Schaefer Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences at the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences reflects the steadfast commitment of the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation and Wyant to create awards for faculty and students, said UA President Robert C. Robbins.

"This endowment uniquely merges the vision and dedication of two incredible university partners to elevate our capacity for education and research for long term, global leadership," Robbins said. "During his tenure as the university's president, John Schaefer advocated powerfully for academic and research growth. His legacy and enduring commitment to this university and its advancement of science continue to inspire. It is most fitting that a new endowed chair in optical sciences bear his name."    

"Professors have the greatest opportunity to impact student experiences more than any other single factor. And world-class researchers are essential to the reputation and academic standing of a world-class university," said Shaun Kirkpatrick, president of biotechnologies at Research Corporation Technologies, or RCT.

RCT is a Tucson-based technology investment and management company that provides early-stage funding and development for promising biomedical companies and technologies. Schaefer serves on the RCT board of directors. 

"This opportunity to leverage a financial commitment to faculty enhancement in optical sciences while also honoring John Schaefer for his extraordinary leadership and long-term vision for excellence at the University of Arizona in both teaching and research was an important gift to make," Kirkpatrick said.

Endowed chairs are among the most generous and critical gifts in higher education and offer imperative support for academic excellence, said Thomas L. Koch, dean of the Wyant College of Optical Sciences.

"The intellectual environment here at the college is enriching and vibrant – and having President Emeritus John Schaefer's name on an endowed chair sends a powerful message about the strong commitment of our community to recruit the outstanding faculty we need to advance our teaching and research mission into exciting new areas of optics and photonics," said Koch. 

The Schaefer endowed chair is the fourth of recently announced endowed chairs associated with the Wyant gift. In February, the J.W. and H.M. Goodman Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences and the Robert R. Shannon Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences were the first to be announced as part of the Distinguished Endowed Chair campaign. In August, it was announced that SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, added its name to an endowed faculty chair position at the college.   

About John Schaefer

John Paul Schaefer served as president of the University of Arizona from 1971 to 1982. He received his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, New York; his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois; and was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. Following his postdoctoral studies, he taught chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley before coming to the UA as a chemistry professor in 1960. He served as head of the chemistry department and as dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Schaefer is known for setting the university on the path of its current reputation as world-leading research university. Among his accomplishments was his approval for the university to participate in the Multiple Mirror Telescope project, which revolutionized optical telescope design.

Schaefer is also a professional photographer and has had his work published in many well-known photographic publications. This year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a panel of Schaefer's cactus flower photographs as "forever" stamps.

A celebration of the John Paul Schaefer Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences will be held at the Wyant College on Sept. 30.  For more information on this event and the Distinguished Endowed Chair campaign, contact Kaye Rowan at

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

The University of Arizona James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences (OSC) has been shaping the future since 1964 by offering first-rate instruction, cutting-edge research and a solid commitment to the development of the optics industry. OSC remains dedicated to providing the industry with an internationally pre-eminent program in all aspects of the study of light.  For more information, please visit


Kaye Rowan, Senior Director of Development University of Arizona
James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences