John Greivenkamp, 2020 SPIE President and Optics Educator and Luminary, Dies at 67

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SPIE fellow and past president John Greivenkamp, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona’s James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences (OSC), died Jan. 29. He was 67.

Greivenkamp, who served as SPIE president in 2020, became a full professor at OSC in 1997. He previously worked for 10 years in the camera technology lab in the physics division at Kodak.

“John was an excellent teacher and mentor for our students. At Optical Sciences he was always willing to help in any way he could. He spent an enormous amount of time helping to direct the building of our West Wing, and he helped put together the plan for the Optical Sciences Center to become the College of Optical Sciences,” said Jim Wyant, founding dean and professor emeritus of optical sciences at OSC. “On his own, he created our antique optics museum, which now brings visitors from all over the world. He was always very much involved in professional societies, and, somehow, he found the time to be the 2020 president of SPIE. John was a wonderful person and will be greatly missed.”

John Greivenkamp at the OSC Museum of Optics in 2020. Credit: Photo courtesy of SPIE via Bernard Kress.
John Greivenkamp at the OSC Museum of Optics in 2020. Courtesy of SPIE via Bernard Kress.
Greivenkamp, a Cincinnati native, became a SPIE fellow in 1996 and an elected member of the SPIE board of directors from 1997 through 2000 and again from 2012 through 2014. He served on numerous SPIE committees — including the Strategic Planning and Symposia committees — and as chair of the Publications Committee from 2011 through 2014. Greivenkamp also served as series editor of SPIE Field Guides and authored the first book in the series, Field Guide to Geometrical Optics.

In 2017, he received the SPIE Maria J. Yzuel Educator Award for his dedication to both formal and informal optics education, for his passion in transferring his knowledge to the next generation of engineers, and for inspiring students of all descriptions to appreciate science.

“John’s commitment with SPIE spanned over a quarter of a century and encompassed everything that our society does,” SPIE CEO Kent Rochford said. “He presented papers, authored books, chaired committees, served as an ambassador, and led the society as SPIE president during a turbulent year of pandemic. John’s deep involvement yielded insights and historical context that SPIE will sorely miss. But what I will mostly miss is his friendship.”

“John always knew the answer to any question one might have, be it about SPIE history, governance, bylaws, or policies. He had a deep understanding of the nuances of the bylaws that only he could explain,” SPIE President Anita Mahadevan-Jansen said. “He was without par a champion of SPIE, and his absence will be keenly felt by those of us who knew him, respected him, and worked with him. He was my go-to person any time I had a question about SPIE, and I am going to miss him every day as I navigate through my year as president.”

Published: February 2022
geometrical optics
The area of optics in which the propagation of light is described by geometrical lines (or rays) governed by Fermat's Principle. Geometrical optics is useful as long as the objects in which the light rays interact are much larger than the wavelength of the light (lenses, mirrors, stops, etc.). In geometrical optics, the wave nature of light is ignored and light is thought to travel in straight lines only to be reflected or refracted at a surface. Geometrical optics is the foundation for the...
GreivenkampSPIEAmericasdeathJames C. WyantJames C. Wyant College of Optical ScienceProfessor Emeritus James C. WyantArizonaArizona Optics Industry AssociationUniversity of ArizonaUniversity of Arizona College of Optical SciencesOpticsgeometricsgeometrical opticsAnita Mahadevan-JansenKent Rochford

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