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First OSA Director, Jarus Quinn, Dies at 81

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DURHAM, N.C., Aug. 16, 2012 — Physicist Jarus W. Quinn, who served as OSA's first executive director from 1969 through 1994, died Aug. 11 at home, shortly before his 82nd birthday.

“Jarus was an exceptional leader, partner, mentor and visionary, whose impact on OSA and the optics and photonics community was significant,” said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan. “He attracted and engaged talented volunteers and staff, anticipated and understood both the current and future needs of our community and took innovative strategic risks, which resulted in a world-class society.”

Quinn received his doctorate in physics (molecular spectroscopy) in 1964 from the Catholic University of America, where he remained as a research faculty member until 1969, when he was hired by OSA (at the time, it was called the Optical Society of America; now it is known as The Optical Society). During his time at the university, he was active in the society.

As executive director, Quinn envisioned OSA as a membership-driven organization that exists to implement and carry out the directives of the member leaders.

He sought to make OSA a leader in optics knowledge, education and outreach. As part of that effort, journal publication operations were brought in-house, ensuring that OSA journals remained highly respected and in the forefront of scientific publishing.

Under his leadership, conferences and topical meetings such as CLEO (Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics) and OFC (Optical Fiber Communication Conference) were established to serve industry needs, foster new areas of research, and showcase scientific and engineering advances in the field.

He also worked to make the society financially strong, enhancing its ability to serve the needs of its members. During his tenure, OSA’s staff grew from seven to 90, and the annual budget grew from less than $1 million to more than $10 million to accommodate the rapidly increasing membership and its needs as optical science and technology made dramatic advances. Successful fund drives enabled OSA to move from rental space to its own headquarters building, and then to upgrade to its current location in Washington.

Another OSA focus championed by Quinn was on expanding the society’s international membership and services. More than half of OSA’s membership now resides outside the US.

Quinn received numerous honors and awards throughout his career. In 2011, he was elected to Honorary Membership, OSA’s highest designation, in recognition of his leadership “and the profound influence that he has had on making the society the success that it is today.” He was named an OSA Fellow in 1969 and received the OSA Distinguished Service Award in 1993.

Upon his retirement in 1994, the OSA membership began a fund drive to establish an endowment in his name that would fund the Frederick Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Prize. Fundraising was completed in 1995, and OSA considers the award its most prestigious.

“Today’s OSA community and staff are responsible for carrying on Jarus’ mission,” said Grace Klonoski, OSA’s chief strategy officer and deputy executive director. “It is an enormous responsibility, but his career and accomplishments left us the very best example of how to diligently seek new and better ways to serve the field and encourage innovation.”

Quinn’s influence on the photonics industry was felt and appreciated by those outside OSA as well. “Jarus was a real professional, a senior leader of executive directors in our field, and a gentleman of forbearance and graciousness,” said Joe Yaver, who served as executive director of SPIE from 1969 to 1993, in a SPIE press release. “He set a high standard for professional leadership in scientific societies.”

He is survived by his wife, Peggy, five children and seven grandchildren.

The family requests that memorial gifts be made to The OSA Foundation to support OSA student programs. Gifts should be directed to The OSA Foundation in memory of Jarus W. Quinn. Visit or send a gift to The OSA Foundation, c/o Optical Society of America, P.O. Box 55480, Boston, MA 02205-9910.

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Aug 2012
AmericasBusinessCLEOElizabeth RoganGrace KlonoskiimagingJarus QuinnJoe YaverOFCOptical Society of AmericaopticsOSASPIEThe Optical Societylasers

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