The University of Arizona Presents James C. Wyant with an Honorary Doctorate

May 4, 2023
Jim Wyant stands outside of the Wyant College of Optical Sciences, named for the founding dean in 2019.

Jim Wyant stands outside of the Wyant College of Optical Sciences, named for the founding dean in 2019.

Jacob Chinn

TUCSON, Ariz. – In recognition of the profound impact of his academic and business leadership; scientific and engineering advances; and generous philanthropic contributions to higher education, the University of Arizona awarded Dr. James C. Wyant with an Honorary Doctorate in Optical Sciences. Wyant was among the six distinguished business and community leaders and humanitarians to receive this distinction from the University at the spring commencement ceremony on Friday May 12, 2023.  

For James C. Wyant, this honor follows a very impressive string of accomplishments throughout his career - and lifetime.

Regarded as a pioneer in the optical sciences industry, Wyant joined the University of Arizona in 1974 as an assistant professor at the Optical Sciences Center (OSC).

He became director of OSC in 1999, and then led its transition to the College of Optical Sciences in 2005. Serving as its founding dean, Wyant oversaw the College’s tremendous growth in faculty, research and physical expansion of its state-of-the-art academic and research facilities.

In addition to his work with the University, Wyant co-founded WYKO Corp. in 1982. The idea for the company came about after inventing a computerized interferometer for high precision measurements of the roughness and shape of surfaces. Applications included diamond turned mirrors, magnetic storage tape and recording heads of hard disk drives. Veeco Instruments then purchased WYKO in 1997.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors, Wyant has also served as president of both OSA and SPIE – the two major international professional societies in optics. Recognitions for his technical work included awards, such as the OSA (Optica) Joseph Fraunhofer Award in 1992, the SPIE Gold Medal, and the SPIE Technology Achievement Award. He is a five-time recipient of R&D Magazine's R&D 100 Award, as well as, a five-time recipient of Laurin Publishing's Photonics Circle of Excellence Award for optical products.

In 2019, Wyant received the SPIE Visionary Award, a highly valued honor that recognizes individuals whose lifetime work has demonstrated exceptional foresight, creativity, advocacy, and vision and has furthered the research, development, and industries related to light-based technologies.

Then, in 2022, Wyant received Optica's most esteemed award, the Frederic Ives Medal and Jarus W. Quinn Prize, for his pioneering contributions in advancing the science and technology of quantitative interferometric metrology, his leadership as an educator and entrepreneur, and his visionary service to the global optics and photonics community. 

The Wyant family has generously donated more than $32 million in support of optical sciences faculty and students at the University of Arizona, including endowed graduate student scholarships and faculty positions.

In 2019, the University renamed the College as the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences in appreciation for Wyant's role as founding dean as well as for his inspiring dedication as a professor, his pioneering innovations in optics and photonics, and his deeply generous philanthropy to enable education in optics.

At the renaming celebration in April 2019, UA President Robert C. Robbins stated that Wyant's contributions over a 40-year period as a professor, dean, business leader and philanthropist were instrumental for advancing the College's education and research programs.

"His extraordinary tenacity, vision and generosity have promoted the success of the university's mission to provide our students with unprecedented opportunities to drive innovation and become future leaders in our society… (His) legacy is one of the main reasons why the UA is a global leader in optics and photonics,” said Robbins.

In regards to the prestige of receiving an honorary doctorate, Dr. Thomas L. Koch, dean, Wyant College, said it was a privilege to partake in this recognition of Wyant.

“When considering his focus, creativity, leadership, and philanthropy, it is most fitting that the University of Arizona bestows an Honorary Doctor of Science degree to James C. Wyant,” said Koch.


For more information, contact:

Kaye Rowan, Executive Director of Development
University of Arizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences