James T. Schwiegerling Obituary, Death – On April 5, 2023, Dr. James T. Schwiegerling, Emeritus Professor of Optical Sciences, died. Jim had retired from the University of Arizona in March of this year after a long and heroic struggle with cancer. Jim was born in Amityville, New York, in 1968, and got his B.S. and M.S. in Optics at the University of Rochester, where he interned over the summers and received scholarship scholarships from Eastman Kodak. He subsequently moved to Arizona, where he got his PhD in Optical Sciences from OSC in 1995, working under Prof. John E. Greivenkamp on his thesis, “Visual Performance Prediction Using Schematic Eye Models.”
After working as a Research Scientist for a few years, Jim joined the University of Arizona faculty in 1998 in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, eventually rising to full professor and shifting his principal appointment to the College of Optical Sciences in 2010. Jim was appointed to the prestigious Robert R. Shannon Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences in 2020. Prof. Schwiegerling has a long and distinguished career in optical engineering, receiving enormous respect from his peers and the optics community for his compelling contributions in both instruction and research. Jim’s research ranged from wavefront sensing to optical system design, with an emphasis on ophthalmic applications. He authored 117 journal and conference papers, seven book chapters, and three books, including the well-known SPIE “Field Guide to Visual and Ophthalmic Optics.”
“Jim was a brilliant teacher and a trailblazing researcher.” While his life was cut short, his research will continue to benefit millions more people in the future. “His death is a great loss to the Wyant College of Optical Sciences and the world of optics and ophthalmology,” Jim Wyant, Professor Emeritus and Founding Dean of the Wyant College of Optical Sciences, remarked.
Jim was also highly regarded as a terrific student advocate. Jim mentored and supervised degrees for 40 M.S. and 19 Ph.D. students, with numerous more students now in their studies, in addition to his superb and entertaining teaching of core components of the optical engineering curriculum.
Jim won numerous honors and distinctions for his contributions to the field of optics, including election as a Fellow of SPIE and Fellow of Optica. Jim’s nine patents were also remarkable, including his development of Diffractive Trifocal Lenses, which was one of the most influential patents in the University of Arizona’s history. His implantable cataract replacement lens design enables patients to regain far, mid-range, and near vision, potentially removing the need for glasses or contacts for some.
Jim was named Tech Launch Arizona’s Inventor of the Year in 2020, Southern Arizona Innovation Leader of the Year in 2021, and Arizona Innovator of the Year in Academic at the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation in 2021 for his discoveries.
“Jim has been an amazing collaborator and innovator since the day I first arrived in Arizona ten years ago,” said Doug Hockstad, Associate Vice President, Tech Launch Arizona. “His desire to make a difference in the world was evident in every interaction he had with TLA, and even more so in his willingness to travel abroad to have his invention implanted in his own eyes.” Everyone at TLA, as well as everyone who has been influenced by his efforts, will miss him greatly.”
“We have all enjoyed tremendously Jim’s strength, energy, creativity, and wonderful congenial spirit over the years, whether as a dear colleague, through his fantastic contributions to the fields of optics and ophthalmology, or through his immeasurable positive impact on the students, faculty, and staff at the College,” Thomas L. Koch, dean of the Wyant College of Optical Sciences, said. “We will miss him beyond words.” Jim is survived by his father and stepmother, Paul and Beverly Schwiegerling, as well as his wife, Diana Glennon, and their two daughters, Max and Marie, both University of Arizona students. Jim’s memorial service will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 5 in the Meinel Auditorium in the Wyant College of Optical Sciences.