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Optical College to Receive $20M Donation

The gift will be divided over five years.

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TUCSON, AZ – The University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences has received a $20 million pledge to support 10 new endowed faculty positions.

The gift comes from the college’s founding dean, Professor Emeritus James C. Wyant, and his family. It is the largest gift for endowed faculty chair positions in the university’s history, according to a press release.

“This is an incredible, enabling moment for the College of Optical Sciences, giving us an unprecedented opportunity to advance the rapidly expanding ways that optics and photonics can improve our lives,” said Thomas L. Koch, dean of the College of Optical Sciences.

The gift will be received over five years.

UA President Robert C. Robbins said, “Jim Wyant’s leadership, vision and support for students has already had an incredible impact on the UA College of Optical Sciences, and his legacy is one of the main reasons why the UA is a global leader in optics and photonics. We are all very grateful to Dr. Wyant and his family for their exemplary leadership and extraordinary generosity that will advance one of the university’s top priorities.”

He added that the gift “will support faculty and enhance our students’ experience by enabling an environment that fosters leadership, learning, collaboration and connections, and it will help shape the success of UA students far into the future.”

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Wyant has co-founded Tucson-based businesses in optics such as WYKO Corp. and  4D Technology Corp.

Wyant said, “I am especially grateful to the university for its incredible flexibility when I was partway through my teaching career and wanted to start a company (WYKO). The financial success of that business has made these gifts possible.”

The leading reason for his gifts, he said, is to “ensure a pathway for the College of Optical Sciences to achieve even greater prominence and success in its education and research mission.”

In 2013, Wyant made a historic $10 million gift to the college for graduate student scholarships in a campaign called FoTO, an acronym for Friends of Tucson Optics. As a result of his initial gift, more than 250 additional donors contributed and 30 first-year graduate student scholarship endowments were established, each bearing the name of a donor.

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