In Memoriam: Steven K. Case
June 16, 2009
OSA Mourns the tragic loss of Steven K. Case
Steven K. Case, the founder and chairman of CyberOptics Corp. and an OSA Fellow, died tragically on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, when the single-engine plane that he was piloting crashed while landing in rainy weather at a suburban Minneapolis, MN airport. He was 60.
Case was returning from a business trip to Georgia. He was the sole occupant of the Cirrus SR22 airplane. Case was an instrument-rated pilot who routinely flew in and out of the airport where the crash occurred.
Case received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan in 1976, and in 1978 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for research at the Applied Optics Institute in Erlangen, Germany. He moved to the University of Minnesota as a professor of electrical engineering, where he developed a system of laser-based sensors used as a quality control tool by circuit board manufacturers. In 1984, CyberOptics was spun out of the university into a private company. Case served as the company’s president until 1998 and became the company’s chairman in 1995, a title he retained until his death. CyberOptics has been on the Inc 100 list of fastest growing companies in America and is internationally recognized as a leader in the design and manufacture of sensors and systems for high precision inspection, measurement, and assembly in the electronics and semiconductor equipment markets.
Case also served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Avanti Optics Corporation from 2000 to 2003; President of the Surface Mount Equipment Manufacturers Association; Director of the American Electronics Association from 2000 to 2001; adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota since 1978, and as a member of University Industry Advisory Board.
Case was elected an OSA Fellow in 1985 and was awarded the Edwin H. Land Medal in 2004 “For pioneering work in laser-based inspection systems, and the highly successful application of these systems in the electronics industry.” He served on a number of OSA committees, including the Strategic Planning Committee (2006-2007), Fellow Members Committee (2005), Nominating Committee (1996), and the Fraunhofer Award/Burley Prize Committee (1995; 2004-2005). In 2006, he was honored with the Achievement Award from the Automated Imaging Association. Case held nearly thirty patents for optical and laser devices and presented over 80 contributed and invited papers at optical and electronic conferences.
CyberOptics issued the following statement from Kathleen P. Iverson, the company's president and chief executive officer: "Everyone at CyberOptics is shocked and deeply saddened by Steve's death, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife and family. He was a brilliant engineer, whose many inventions and technological breakthroughs not only established the foundation for CyberOptics' success, but also helped transform the surface mount electronics industry. Most importantly, Steve was a wonderful friend and colleague to everyone who worked with him. He established a strong and capable management team, and we will do what Steve would want and that is to continue aggressively pursuing the ideas and promising opportunities he helped set in motion."
Case was a serious amateur photographer whose work decorated the board room at CyberOptics’ headquarters. He is survived by his wife, Beverly Caruso, two daughters and a grandchild.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
If you would like to make a memorial donation to the OSA Foundation in honor of Steve Case, please visit www.osa–foundation.org/give.
Tributes to Steven K. Case
This is a great loss for his family, the OSA community, and the Optics industry.
Thomas M. Baer
2009 OSA President
This is a very sad day. Steve has made very important contributions to the field and to OSA. He was an outstanding problem solver, he built a valuable company by leveraging clever optical sensors in the semiconductor industry, he loved life and was devoted to his wife, Bev, and his two daughters.
He was my office mate as graduate students in Michigan. We collaborated on our thesis research projects as students of Emmett Leith. He was always driven to have a clear and crisp understanding of the world around him. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues, his many friends and his family.
A sad day.
Rod C. Alferness
2008 OSA President
I knew Steve for more than 30 years since his PhD studies with Emmett Leith at Michigan. He was one of the brightest, cheerful and most benevolent people I have ever met.
I will miss him greatly, and extend my deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
OSA Foundation Board of Directors
OSA Awards Won
Edwin H. Land Medal