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Jarus W. Quinn

In Memoriam: Jarus W. Quinn

August 11, 2012

OSA Mourns the Loss of Jarus W. Quinn, 1930-2012: Served as OSA's First Executive Director

Jarus Quinn

Jarus W. Quinn, who served as OSA's first Executive Director and guided the growth of the Society from 1969 through 1994, died on 11 August 2012, shortly before his 82nd birthday.

Dr. Quinn earned a B.S. from St. Joseph's College. In 1964, he received a Ph.D. in physics (molecular spectroscopy) from the Catholic University of America, where he remained as a research faculty member until 1969. During that time he became active in OSA, just as the Society was experiencing rapid growth, due in large part to the invention of the laser. In 1969, OSA's Executive Secretary, Mary Warga, was nearing retirement and needed assistance in administering the Society. As a result, Quinn was hired as OSA's first executive director.

Quinn's vision for OSA was one of a membership-driven organization that exists to implement and carry out the directives of the member leaders. He paid particular attention to making the Society financially strong, enhancing its ability to serve the needs of its members. During his tenure, OSA's staff size grew from 7 to 90, and the annual budget grew from under $1 million to over $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 the current headquarters location. Quinn also 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 the highly successful Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) and the Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC), were established to serve industry needs, foster new areas of research and showcase scientific and engineering advances in the field. Another OSA focus championed by Quinn was on expanding its international membership and the services provided to them. More than half of OSA's membership now resides outside the United States.

Quinn received numerous honors and awards throughout his long and prestigious career. In 2011, he was elected to Honorary Membership, OSA's highest designation, in recognition of "his exceptional leadership of the OSA as its Executive Director from 1969 through 1994 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 was awarded the OSA Distinguished Service Award in 1993 "for nearly a quarter-century of enthusiastic service and leadership in the scientific community as executive director of the Optical Society of America." 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. Fund raising was completed in 1995, and the award is considered OSA's most prestigious.

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

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to The OSA Foundation to support OSA student programs.   Please direct your gift 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, PO Box 55480, Boston, MA 02205-9910

Tributes to Jarus W. Quinn

Jarus was one of the heroes who immeasurably enriched my career.  I am deeply saddened at his passing.  Here are just a couple of his contributions to me personally:  in 1974 he made it possible for me to give my first OSA invited talk, by arranging OSA travel funds when I had none.  He encouraged my involvement in OSA committees while I was still a post-doc, including the finance committee at a time when I’d never before read a financial report!  I still remember how much I appreciated his faith in my abilities—at a time when women’s abilities were often suspect.  Through his involving me in many OSA committees, I developed self-confidence as I learned about organizational management.  When I became OSA president, he invited me to attend a joint class for organizational presidents and executive directors, during which we developed a close bond.  My OSA experience was a key factor in my becoming a member of the National Academy of Engineering and then Dean of Engineering at Dartmouth.  I am forever grateful for Jarus and OSA for these opportunities.

Jarus had an innate respect for women in optics that was rare at that time (mid-1970’s until the mid-1990’s).  I cannot over-state how important this was to me personally.  At the same time, this support aided the careers of numerous other women.  Without him and his support, I don’t believe that I would have had the academic career that I’ve been so fortunate to have.  Many other OSA women owe him this debt of gratitude, whether they realize it or not.

Elsa Garmire
1993 OSA President

Jarus Quinn built the Society in many ways, including the introduction of the Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC). On a personal note, Quinn told me as a young journalist I could have "unrestricted use" of the OSA library when he found out I was writing "The Rewiring of America: The Fiber Optics Revolution" in the late 1980s. And it was through OSA and OFC that I was able to develop many of the sources used in the book. Quinn was a kind and gentle man who believed unerringly in the power and potential of fiber optics to change the world. It has been people such as him that provide the inspiration to lace up the boots and fight the fight every day.

C. David Chaffee
Founder and CEO, Chaffee Fiber Optics

Jarus was an exceptional leader, partner, mentor, and visionary whose impact on OSA and the optics and photonics community was significant. 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.  For those who were fortunate enough to work with him, his love, wisdom and humor will be missed. On behalf of the OSA Board, members, and staff, I express our deepest condolences to Jarus’ family and colleagues.

Liz Rogan

When Paul Kelley interviewed me recently for OSA's upcoming 100th anniversary, he asked about my experience working with Jarus. I said I always felt that Jarus was on my side. As I wrote to Jarus in a letter marking his retirement, "Through good times and bad (difficult authors, difficult chairs, difficult advertisers, difficult colleagues), I've valued your insight and appreciated your support. I've always felt comfortable being open with you, even when we've disagreed." For the past eight years, my husband Alan and I have been visiting Jarus and Peggy in Durham, making our own plans to retire there. I told Jarus just weeks ago that I had finally announced my retirement at year's end. He said he was looking forward to seeing us soon and finding me in a more relaxed mode. I am so sorry to miss the chance to be retired together.

Andrea Pendleton, OSA staff, 1987-1998

Jarus had a fantastic business sense in his low key, witty way. His timing for purchasing the headquarters building was perfect. His goal was to secure OSA’s long-term financial security with a steady rental income plus equity appreciation. I will miss him!

Milton Chang
Managing Director, Incubic Management, LLC

I am glad that OSA honored Jarus when it did.  His leadership in his years at OSA made an enduring contribution to the field of Optics, and he will be remembered with affection.

Susan Houde-Walter
2005 OSA President

This is really a sad thing to hear. Jarus truly was a good person and did wonderful things for our society.

Eric Van Stryland
2006 OSA President

I am deeply sorrowed to learn of Jarus's death, as I am sure is the entire OSA membership. He is the one that drew me into membership in OSA in the early 1960's. To express the large impact he had on optics and on OSA, I could do no better than to refer to the published press release by the Board announcing Jarus's election to Honorary Member status. I am pleased that he was able to learn of this fact before he passed away.

Anthony DeMaria
1981 OSA President

I just learned of Jarus's passing. It is tremendously sad to lose a leader and dear friend whose efforts positively influenced so many individuals, over so many years, in so many ways. Thanks to his vision, energy and exquisite management, the Optical Society grew to become a significant worldwide force in advancing, archiving and disseminating the science of light. Today's OSA community and staff are responsible for carrying on Jarus's mission—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. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the Quinn family and the optics and photonics community as a whole; we have all benefited from Jarus's contributions and we are truly and forever grateful.

Grace Klonoski
OSA Staff

Jarus was an amazing man and someone I thoroughly enjoyed working with. His combination of brilliance, ultra-dry humor, and rebellious streak were truly a joy to behold. Although I had not had a lot of opportunities to talk with Jarus recently, every time I did it was an absolute pleasure. He was a great asset for OSA and I'm sure everyone who knew him will miss him tremendously…as I will.

Jeffrey M Stoiber, AIA
President, Stoiber + Associates

This is very sad news for OSA. My thoughts are with Peggy and the whole Quinn family. It is good that OSA elected Jarus to Honorary Member status. The Honorary Member presentation at FiO/LS 2012 will be another opportunity to recognize his legacy.

Kelly Cohen
OSA Staff

Sad news indeed. Jarus was a gifted leader and a wonderful person. His vision and leadership were in large part responsible for making the OSA the successful organization that it is today. We shall all mourn his passing. I am glad that we were able to honor Jarus with Honorary Membership before his death. I'm certain that he must have greatly appreciated that tribute.

John Bjorkholm
1992-1996 OSA Treasurer

In the late 1970's when I was still a student at the University of Rochester, the OSA moved to a new location (from K street to Jefferson Street?) and sent out a general invitation to the membership to visit the new building. I suspect few members took them up on that invitation because when I showed up after visiting my parents in the DC area no one had any idea what to do with a visiting member. And so the task fell to Jarus, the Executive Director, to show me around, which he amiably did.

In the mid 1980's I had to set up the lasers for the Spectra-Physics booth at CLEO in Baltimore. We needed to get in early the day the show opened to make sure everything was running correctly, but when we entered the show management office all we got was nasty stares. Then Jarus poked his head up and vouched for us and we were immediately let in.

Both of these reminiscences demonstrate how humble and helpful Jarus was to the members.

James D. Kafka
OSA Director at Large

Jarus was a remarkable leader, and a mentor to many. His wit was laser sharp, and I suspect that he was often perplexed at the intellectual deficit in evidence around him, not realizing just how extraordinary his own mind to be. He was unimpressed by conventional determinants of achievement, and was able to identify—and nurture—the native talents of his staff.

Susan E. Dorn
General Counsel
U.S. Green Building Council, Inc. & Green Building Certification Institute

Jarus built the foundation upon which we have constructed one of this century's best and most successful scientific societies. Our world is a much better place because of him.

I will miss him.

Thomas M. Baer
2009 OSA President

Jarus was a lovely man, with a great sense of humor, tremendous commitment to the OSA, and a real diplomat. Working with him in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s to establish links with Europe was a real delight. We will miss him.

Peter Knight
2004 OSA President

In addition to his tremendous accomplishments in building the OSA, we will remember Jarus for his humanity: he was a very down-to-earth, kind and decent guy.

Jim Fienup
Institute of Optics, University of Rochester

It is just incredible how much Jarus has done for OSA. It is a small consolation that he already knew about his election to Honorary Membership and how much we appreciated his contributions.

Herwig Kogelnik
1989 OSA President

Jarus did so much for OSA and optics and photonics.  He was so good at saying the right things and doing the right things at the right time, and his humor was great.  He will be greatly missed.

Jim Wyant
2010 OSA President