Eyes on Optics

College of Optical Sciences alumni, friends establish scholarship endowments

By:
Jeffrey Javier, Jacob Chinn photos

The world-renowned UA College of Optical Sciences has 18 newly established scholarship endowments for its graduate students thanks to generous alumni and friends of the college. 

Much of the credit for the new endowments is owed to Professor Emeritus James C. Wyant and the $10 million gift that he structured as a four-to-one matching gift offer on donations made to establish Friends of Tucson Optics (FoTO)-endowed scholarships. 

These scholarship endowments will help the college attract top students and talent, key to producing tomorrow’s optics industry leaders. They are expected to further accelerate the college’s and UA’s leadership in the field.

Kenneth Moore ’91 and John B. Hayes ’84 were among the first to establish FoTO-endowed scholarships. 

Fascinated as a child with microscopes and telescopes, Moore was driven to earn his graduate degree in optical sciences from the University of Arizona. 

“The UA at the time had a vastly more intense and comprehensive optical sciences program than any other university,” Moore says. “Optics was their business.” 

Impassioned, Moore quit his job, sold his home in California, and moved to Tucson with his wife, Michele, in 1988. 

While he and his wife lived on one income, Moore says, the tuition waiver and stipend he received as a student enabled him to complete his doctorate degree in less than three years.

When Moore finished his degree, he and Michele founded Zemax Development Corporation and held the positions of president and chief financial officer, respectively. They sold the company in 2011, but Ken remains chief technology officer of optical engineering products at Radiant Zemax, LLC.

They have a daughter, Sophie, and  a son, Alex, who is expected to begin a dual major in physics and optics at the UA this fall. 
Hayes developed an interest in optics while studying physics and astronomy at the University of Arizona. Fascinated by the technology and engineering of telescopes, he switched from pursuing a master’s degree in physics to a doctorate degree in optical sciences.

“It was the smartest thing I ever did and a natural extension of what I had been interested in all along,” he says. “It was challenging but the learning environment was fantastic and a lot of fun — it made it hard to graduate.” 

Hayes recalls the entrepreneurial spirit of his peers and professors, which eventually led to a business partnership with James Wyant, his professor at the time. They co-founded two optics companies and have been close friends for more than 30 years. 

“My years as a student helped me achieve success in business, and I have since then been a big supporter of the college,” Hayes says. 

When Moore and Hayes heard about Wyant’s matching gift offer, it did not take them long to decide to sponsor a scholarship. Hayes and his wife, Jane Quale, immediately committed to the first two FoTO scholarships in their names. The Moores were next in line, also sponsoring two FoTO scholarships in their names.

“I believe it’s important for people to reflect on how they reached their point of success and give back so the next generation can also be successful,” Moore says. “What Jim contributed was just exceedingly generous and I’m proud to be a part of it.” 

While contributions at any level to the FoTO scholarship general fund will be matched, gifts of $100,000 — either outright or over a one-to-four year pledge plan — to establish a new scholarship endowment will get a $400,000 match from Wyant, and the individual or group making the gift will have the privilege of naming their scholarship.

The FoTO scholarships are supported by a University offer to waive tuition and fees for their recipients.

Thomas L. Koch, dean of the College of Optical Sciences, says the response to Wyant’s matching gift has been exceptionally positive. 

“The support we’ve seen from all corners of the industry will ensure our legacy of innovation and excellence continues for another 50 years and beyond,” Koch says. “I cannot be more grateful to all who have contributed.” 

For more information about giving to the College of Optical Sciences and the Friends of Tucson Optics (FoTO) scholarships, please contact Kaye Rowan at 520-626-8754 or rowan@optics.arizona.edu