M. Parker Givens

In Memoriam: M. Parker Givens

January 11, 2013

In Memoriam:  M. Parker Givens, 1916-2013

M. Parker GivensM. Parker Givens, former acting director and professor emeritus of the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics and a renowned teacher to generations of students, died on 11 January 2013. He was 96.

Givens received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1942, where his fields of interest were the optical properties of metals and vacuum ultraviolet spectroscopy. He served as an instructor of physics at the Pennsylvania State College from 1942-46, and he also spent a year with the proximity fuze group of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.  He joined The Institute of Optics' faculty in 1947, and served as acting director from 1975-1977. Although Givens "officially" retired in 1981 at the mandatory age of 65 (at that time a federal law), he continued to teach for another 22 years, as well serving as Acting Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science in 1984-1985.  He retired for the second time in 2004.

Givens made important contributions to the development of optical data processing and synthetic holography. While very successful in research, he said the main object of his career was helping people to learn. Along with former director Robert Hopkins, Givens received a 1963 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop new teaching experiments and demonstrations using the then newly-developed optical laser. Hopkins, Givens and others equipped a traveling unit – thus the origin of the "laser road show" – that was taken to several universities and an NSF institute for high school teachers.

In recognition of Givens’ success as an inspirational educator, a chair in his name was endowed in 2001 by James Wyant, a University Trustee, professor at the University of Arizona and a former student of Givens. This endowed Chair was held first by Prof. Robert Boyd from 2001-2011, and is currently held by Optics Director Xi-Cheng Zhang.

Givens resurrected a childhood fascination with bees on a 1963 visit to Nantucket, Mass., and kept bees for the next 30 years. Each season, Givens harvested several hundred pounds of honey, most of which he used himself or gave away at the Institute.

Givens is survived by his daughter, Jean F. Givens of Lexington, Ky. He was predeceased in 1979 by his son Robert P. Givens, in 1989 by his son R. Wayne Givens, and in 2007 by his wife of 65 years, Gene M. Givens.

If you would like to make a memorial contribution to the OSA Foundation in memory of M. Parker Givens, please visit www.osa-foundation.org/give.

This obituary was contributed by the University of Rochester.