Today, SPIE, the international society of optics and photonics, announced a $125,000 matching gift to UCF.

The $125,000 in funding from SPIE is a match to a gift from UCF Professor M.J. Soileau and his wife, Cheryl. Combined, the gifts will create the Soileau Family-SPIE Optics and Photonics Undergraduate Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students in the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL), with preference given to students who are the first in their families to attend college.

“I learned early that wealth does not equal worth,” says Soileau, who was the first in his family to attend not only college but also high school. “My family is pleased to partner with SPIE to support scholarships for students studying optics and photonics to help them realize their worth.”

“This generous gift from M.J. and Cheryl Soileau establishes accessible and future-focused opportunities for undergraduate students studying optics and photonics at UCF CREOL,” says SPIE President John Greivenkamp. “It gives us great pleasure to come together with the Soileau family in order to create this scholarship fund — one with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of first-generation students — which will support current and future generations of optics and photonics scientists and engineers in perpetuity. In addition, this collaborative effort holds special significance for us since M.J. is both a former SPIE president and board member, as well as an SPIE Gold Medal recipient.”

The SPIE Endowment Matching Program, established in 2019, is a $2.5 million, five-year, educational-funding initiative designed to increase international capacity in the teaching and research of optics and photonics. SPIE supports optics and photonics education and the future of the industry by contributing up to $500,000 per award to college and university programs with optics and photonics degrees, or with other disciplines allied to the SPIE mission. Another matching agreement earlier this year established the SPIE-Glebov Family Optics and Photonics Graduate Scholarship Fund.

“As an international leader in optics, lasers and photonics, UCF provides opportunities for students from all backgrounds to explore their passion in this critical field,” says UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright, also a first-generation student, SPIE fellow and researcher in the area of optical sensors. “It is an honor to recognize this second UCF investment as part of SPIE’s Endowment Matching Program. Coupled with the Soileau family’s generosity and M.J.’s legacy in optics and photonics, this gift will help many of our students discover their full potential and impact as scholars.”