Celebrating a legacy in optics

Celebrating a legacy in optics

Tina E. Kidger and Emery L. Moore establish distinguished professorship of optics as part of the Wyant Challenge

Tina Kidger and Emery Moore

Tina Kidger and Emery Moore

A couple deeply connected to optics is enhancing the field’s future by endowing the Kidger-Moore Distinguished Professorship in Optics at the University of Rochester. Tina E. Kidger and Emery L. Moore’s generous gift to the University will be matched with funds through the Wyant Challenge, established by University of Rochester life trustee James C. Wyant ’69 (PhD) and his wife, Tammy. This challenge aims to increase faculty at the Institute of Optics by 50 percent.

Kidger and Moore have both been associated with optics for more than 40 years and say they feel most at home when they are with those from the optics community. When they learned about the Wyant Challenge, they saw an opportunity to support the Institute of Optics–one of the world’s premier optics programs–and ensure the optics community will continue to thrive for years to come.

“We were looking for some way to create a legacy and the University of Rochester was an obvious choice,” says Moore. “It’s one of the best educational centers in the world for optical science. To have our name associated with the University and the Institute of Optics was important to us.”

University President Sarah Mangelsdorf says the gift highlights Rochester’s leading role in optics. As one of the institution’s areas of distinction, optics is a key part of the University’s 2030 Strategic Plan. “Thanks to Tina and Emery, and all of our generous supporters of the Wyant Challenge, we will continue to recruit top-tier faculty members as part of our long legacy in researching and developing transformational technologies in optics and related fields,” Mangelsdorf says. “We appreciate Tina and Emery’s support as we all work to advance Rochester’s leadership and distinction as a research university of global impact.”

Although Kidger and Moore are not Rochester alumni, their connection to the University dates back more than a century. Dr. Edward Mott Moore was the son of Emery Moore’s great, great uncle, Lindley M. Moore. For many years in the mid to late 19th century, Dr. Mott Moore was president of the University of Rochester’s Board of Trustees as well as president of the Rochester Parks Commission from its founding in 1888 until his death in 1902. Dubbed the founding father of Rochester’s park system, he is memorialized with a statue in Genesee Valley Park.

Tina Kidger and her late first husband Michael J. Kidger also have a connection to the University through their long-standing professional association with Imperial College London (ICL). Early in her career, Kidger met Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake—two of the Institute of Optics’ founding faculty members who came from ICL—at a Society of Photo-Optical Instrumental Engineers (SPIE) conference. SPIE is one of the premier professional societies for optics and photonics science, engineering, and technology. Tina was pleasantly surprised when a researcher as distinguished as Hilda Kingslake took an interest in the optical design software she was exhibiting. Kidger would go on to write about the Kingslakes’ lasting impact in optics through a paper: SPIE manuscript 10021-22, “The Optical Legacy of Imperial College London.”

Throughout their professional lives, the couple has been deeply involved with SPIE. Moore is a former officer and president of the society while Kidger has been involved for decades as a volunteer leader. She continues to help SPIE plan its symposia and was honored by the organization as an SPIE fellow in 2022. Through the society, they grew to know Jim Wyant, furthering their connections to Rochester.

Tina Kidger annually awards (with administrative support from SPIE) the Michael Kidger Memorial Scholarship to a student engaged in optical design including lens design, illumination design, and computational optical design. Six of the 24 Kidger Scholars to date have come from the University of Rochester.

“It is very important for students and graduates to have a considerable understanding of optical design,” says Kidger. “While other universities have programs specializing in optics, there is none superior to the program at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics.” She adds that the program at the University of Arizona’s Wyant College of Optical Sciences is of similar caliber.

Thomas Brown, the director of the Institute of Optics and a Mercer Brugler Distinguished Teaching Professor, says the search for the first Kidger-Moore Distinguished Professor is expected to begin in late 2025. Professor Brown says he is excited to find a candidate who can do justice to Kidger and Moore’s legacy in optics.

“Tina and Emery have a deep appreciation for the historical roots of the Institute, but an equal appreciation for its present and future prospects,” says Brown. “Through Tina’s annual Michael J. Kidger Memorial Scholarship, the couple has already recognized many of the Institute’s students. The Kidger-Moore Distinguished Professorship at Rochester is a further investment toward advancing the future of the Institute and the industry. We are extremely grateful to Tina and Emery for the impact that their generosity will have on the future of the Institute of Optics, the University of Rochester, and generations of students to come.”

Get involved

For more information on the Wyant Optics Challenge and how to support the Institute of Optics, contact Derek Swanson, director of Hajim Advancement.

—Luke Auburn, fall 2023