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SPIE O+P 2019: society launches $2.5M endowment matching program

14 Aug 2019

Inaugural grant of $500,000 creates chair in optical sciences at the University of Arizona.

SPIE has announced a $500,000 grant to the University of Arizona’s Wyant College of Optical Sciences, the optics and photonics society's first gift in a planned $2.5 million, five-year program.

The grant will create the SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences, as part of an endowment-matching program. Wyant College indicated that the grant would help fuel its innovations in robotics and autonomy, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), communications, biomedicine, astronomy, and other fields enabled by optics and photonics.

The new program, intended to enhance educational capacity at colleges and universities, was announced during SPIE’s Optics + Photonics event, taking place in San Diego, California, this week.

It adds to the more than $4 million a year that SPIE contributes to community support, including various scholarships, travel grants, and student programs, and comes just a few months after James Wyant, founding dean of the influential optics college that now bears his name, donated $20 million to support ten new faculty positions.

‘Create the future’
Under the endowment matching program, SPIE said it would grant up to $500,000 per award to college and university programs with optics and photonics degrees, or with other disciplines allied with the society’s mission.

The University of Arizona contribution, matched by a factor of three thanks to funds donated by optics and photonics entrepreneur James C. Wyant and his family, names a new $2-million-endowed faculty chair.

SPIE is encouraging qualified institutions to establish future endowments with the society, structuring funds to ensure perpetual or long-term support for teaching and research.

“At SPIE we partner with educators and universities to advance light-based research, technology, and applications for the betterment of the human condition,” said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. “As a not-for-profit educational charity, SPIE is uniquely positioned to devote resources that create a larger pipeline of scientists and engineers knowledgeable about optics. In partnership with the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, SPIE is helping to create the future.”

Critical investment
The society’s current president, Jim Oschmann, noted: “The proposal to fund an endowed chair, initiated by Jim Wyant’s philanthropy, generated a terrific reaction from the SPIE Board of Directors. We were delighted to approve this exciting program and look forward to creating multiple new endowments in partnership with our colleagues at educational institutions across the optics and photonics community.”

Thomas Koch, the current dean at Wyant College, said that the leadership and commitment of SPIE would help to scale-up the institution through the new endowed faculty position, leading to more teaching, more research, more students, and ultimately enabling the college to provide more expertise to the world.

“This is a critical and welcome investment in our faculty and students, and Jim Wyant’s generosity and vision transforms the SPIE $500,000 contribution into a $2 million endowment,” Koch added.

• For more information about the SPIE Endowment Matching Program, visit www.spie.org/endowment.

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