The University of Arizona has announced a five-year, $20 million gift from professor emeritus James C. Wyant, founding dean of its College of Optical Sciences, and his family to endow ten faculty positions at the college.
The gift, the largest in UA history in support of endowed faculty chair positions, will support the university's recently unveiled strategic plan. The Distinguished Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences Fund includes an agreement to transfer $1.5 million from the fund into a separate endowment in optical sciences when a donor or a donor group offers $500,000 to create a named endowed faculty chair. With a minimum balance of $2 million each, the endowed chair funds will give the college the resources it needs to hire more faculty and support existing faculty.
Considered a pioneer in the optics and photonics field, Wyant began at UA as an assistant professor of optical sciences in 1974. In 1999, he was named director of the Optical Sciences Center and became founding dean when the center was made a college in 2005. In 2013, Wyant made a $10 million gift to the college in support of graduate student scholarships. In addition to his academic career, Wyant founded two Tucson-area optics-related companies, WYKO Corp. and 4D Technology Corp.
"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 UA is a global leader in optics and photonics," said UA president Robert C. Robbins. "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. This new 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."