For his numerous contributions to the Arizona science and technology communities, Professor Emeritus James Wyant, the founding dean of The University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences, will be awarded the AccountabilIT Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation (GCOI) at the Phoenix Convention Center. The Arizona Technology Council, in conjunction with the Arizona Commerce Authority, presents this award to leaders who demonstrate a lifetime of success in growing and advocating for the state’s technology ecosystem. 

“James Wyant is a true force in Arizona’s technology community,” said Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Council. “His contributions to advancing optical sciences in our state have been tremendous. During his career at The University of Arizona, he’s been instrumental in furthering education, research and philanthropy, both within the realm of optics and within technology as a whole. Wyant’s commitment to research has opened doors to thousands of students at the university to continue our state’s trajectory of leading in innovation. It’s an honor to present him with this recognition of his significant achievements.” 

This year’s GCOI will be held on Thursday, October 24, at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St., West Building, Third Floor, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. This year marks the 16th year of the Council’s prestigious event, which attracts more than 850 attendees each year for a night of networking, food and entertainment. The celebration will consist of a strolling dinner and Tech Showcase followed by a theatre-style awards program. The Tech Showcase will include more than 50 companies featuring their innovations, culture and future here in Arizona. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at 

“Being chosen for the 2019 GCOI Lifetime Achievement award is an honor and a privilege,” said Wyant. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to advance the field of optics and photonics within The University of Arizona. Arizona is truly a state for innovators, and I’m proud to be considered one of them.” 

Throughout his 40-year career at The University of Arizona, Wyant was a teacher, researcher and inventor. In 1999 he became the director of the Optical Sciences Center and in 2005, when the center became the College of Optical Sciences, he served as the college’s dean until 2013. At The University of Arizona, he specialized in the testing of super-smooth optical surfaces, testing of complex aspheric surfaces, the development of commercial optical test equipment based on phase-shifting interferometry and more. Wyant founded or co-founded several companies, including WYKO Corporation and 4D Technology. He also has served on dozens of boards for STEM-related initiatives, as well as the board of trustees for both the University of Rochester and Case Western Reserve University, where he is currently board chair.

In addition to his flourishing career, Wyant is also a dedicated philanthropist. Over the past six years, he has donated more than $30 million to support optical sciences faculty and students at The University of Arizona. His donations include $20 million to support 10 new faculty positions at the College of Optical Sciences, and $10 million to the college for graduate student scholarships in the Friends of Tucson Optics (FoTO) campaign. His philanthropic contributions remain the largest gift for endowed faculty chair positions in the university’s history. 

“James Wyant’s leadership in advancing optical science through research and education at the University of Arizona is unparalleled,” said Sandra Watson, Arizona Commerce Authority president and CEO. “His dedication and accomplishments have played a key role in our state’s emergence as a global hub for technology and innovation. The Arizona Commerce Authority thanks James for his significant contributions and congratulates him on this well-deserved honor.” 

Lifetime Achievement Award winners are chosen by public vote. Wyant joins an impressive list of former honorees including Jim Armstrong, managing partner, Canal Partners and founder of JDA Software; Bob Parsons, American philanthropist and founder of GoDaddy; Rick Smith, CEO and founder of Axon (formerly TASER); Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; Pat Sullivan, co-founder and CEO of Ryver;  Eric and Tim Crown, co-founders of Insight Enterprises; Gary Tooker, former CEO and chairman of Motorola; Roy Vallee, former chairman and CEO of Avnet; Steve Sanghi, president, CEO and chairman of Microchip Technology; Craig Barrett former CEO and chairman of Intel; and renowned architect Paolo Soleri.  

Individuals and corporations will also be honored at the GCOI celebration. This includes the Academia Award; Innovator of the Year Awards for large, small and startup companies; the Transformational Leadership Award; and the Ed Denison Business Leader of the Year Award.