Farewell reception honors dean
The College of Optical Sciences held a farewell reception to honor its director and dean Jim Wyant for 13 years of leadership on Tuesday afternoon.
What was initially supposed to be a small gathering of co-workers became a large ceremony with many guest speakers who shared inside jokes and stories of Wyant’s achievements. People flew in from all over the country to honor him for all of the work and time he put in at the UA.
“My idea for this event was to not have the event,” Wyant said. “Now I’m glad I had it.”
Bobbie Doss, director of personnel administration for the college, pushed for the big ceremony and celebration.
“To not honor this man for what he brought to this place would’ve been a crime beyond compare,” Doss said.
As the director, Jim Wyant expanded the undergraduate program, fought to make the College of Optical Sciences “a stand-alone college” and “brought entrepreneurship” to the college, Doss said.
Along with his achievements at the UA, Wyant has been a member and leader of optical sciences organizations like the Optical Society of America and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics.
As president of the Optical Society of America, Wyant oversaw the development of two journals and expanded the organization’s membership, according to Elizabeth Rogan, an attendee at the celebration. Rogan flew in from Washington to speak at Wyant’s reception.
“He has a nice balance in bringing the best out of people,” Rogan said. “He challenges everybody and he’s sincere in everything he does, and he truly enjoys life.”
Peter Likins, the UA president from 1997 to 2006, worked with Wyant to establish the College of Optical Sciences. Likins said it took a while to find someone who stood out as a leader when looking for the college’s dean. Finding such a leader was challenging because Wyant is “quiet” and “modest,” according to Likins.
“He has enormous intellectual versatility, and yet he’s a nice guy,” Likins said.
Wyant was presented with various gifts toward the end of the ceremony including a portrait, a small replica of the Ohara Sphere that’s located on the third floor of the Meinel Optical Sciences building and a hologram with the inscription “James C. Wyant, Optical Pioneer.” Wyant also saw Lute Olson, Sean Miller and Greg Byrne at the ceremony.
“He loves his science madly, but the next thing he loves more than anything is basketball,” Doss said. “I tried to think ‘What can you get someone who has absolutely everything?’ … and when all three of them (Olson, Miller and Byrne) said they would come … I know he was absolutely thrilled.”
Now that Wyant has retired, Thomas Koch will take over as the new dean of the college. Koch moved to Arizona from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania two weeks ago and said taking Wyant’s place will be a “tough act to follow.”
“It’s a daunting challenge, but it’s the most wonderful of circumstances,” Koch said.