Retired UA professor James Wyant announced last week that he will be giving a $10 million gift to the UA.
Wyant, who also held the position of dean in the College of Optical Sciences, said he gave the grant to help fund graduate students within the college.
“Most universities’ strongest allegiance is with their undergraduate students,” said Thomas Koch, professor and dean of the College of Optical Sciences, “but for the past 40-something years here at the College of Optical Sciences, we didn’t even have an undergraduate program.”
Wyant said he has considered making such a grant for the past few years but needed time to think through the minor details. He hopes that this huge donation will encourage and attract the best and most talented graduate students possible.
Wyant added he earned the money through his work with a company he started.
“I just started a company for a couple of years in the early ’80s, and we created the perfect measurements for a hard disk drive and sold thousands of them for [$100,000] to $200,000 apiece,” Wyant said.
Wyant has pledged donate $4 for every $1 donated to the program.
Kaye Rowan, director of development in the College of Optical Sciences, said that this grant should entice new students to the program.
“[This grant] completely turns a new page because it is an incredible opportunity to really attract the best of students worldwide and sets a whole message about how the public supports our students’ success,” Rowan said.
Since Wyant’s announcement, the college has received multiple donation offers from alumni, faculty and interested partners and professors from various universities, according to Koch.
“I wasn’t surprised by the grant since it has been in the works for around seven months,” Koch said, “but I was surprised by the on-the-spot contributors. We are already more than halfway through our goal. We still need 10 people to step forward and commit to creating more scholarships, and Wyant will then continue to match it times four.”
Koch said Wyant is generous with his time and is an active volunteer in the community. Wyant’s gift is due to his success in business and that it shows his desire to help others, he added.
Wyant said he understands the importance of supporting education within the field of optical sciences.
“His grant speaks volumes about his willingness to share his resources to solve problems for others,” Koch said.