Engineering & Applied Sciences

Stephen Fantone '79

fantone “Successful completion of a Ph.D. program proves to the world and yourself that you have the ability to recognize and frame a problem or issue, assemble the means to solve, analyze or resolve it, and then communicate your work to your peers . . . You go through a Ph.D. program only once – and you are transformed into an academic scholar and a role model to others.”

Stephen D. Fantone ‘79, who included these comments in his 2015 address to University of Rochester doctoral graduates, has excelled as both a scholar and role model.

After receiving a bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and management from MIT, he earned his PhD in optics from the University of Rochester in 1979. While completing his PhD, he joined Polaroid Corporation and played a key role in product and technology development there for more than two decades.

He is president of Optikos Corporation, a Massachusetts-based optical engineering firm he founded in 1982. Optikos provides metrology products, engineering design, and manufacturing services for product development.

Fantone has served on many program review panels, provided expert testimony on patent infringement and trade secret litigation cases, and been awarded more than 65 patents.

He is a senior lecturer in the mechanical engineering department at MIT; chairman of the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research; and a board member of Rofin-Sinar Technologies, Inc., the Hertz Foundation, and The Optical Society (OSA) Foundation.


Actively engaged with OSA for more than 40 years, he was awarded its Distinguished Service Award in 2007. In 2013, OSA honored Fantone by renaming that award the Stephen D. Fantone Distinguished Service Award.

At the University, Fantone has led many projects in support of optics and engineering. He is the chair of the Boston/New England Regional Campaign and is a member of the Boston Regional Cabinet and the Dean’s Advisory Committee for the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

All of which eminently qualified him to advise that graduating class of doctoral students in 2015, when he received the Distinguished Scholar award.

“The scholarly mantle I first tried on in Latin class and later fully embraced as a doctoral student gave me the skills to participate in activities I never imagined. I was not a political science major, yet I chair a public policy think tank; I was not a CFO, yet I served as the Treasurer for an international professional society; and I’ve chaired or served on several public company boards without an MBA degree.

"The scholarly approach provided me with the skills to learn on my own and to invent, create, and synthesize products, technologies and businesses and to communicate ideas effectively. The truth is, when I sat where you sit today, I did not envision making those contributions, or see a path to this podium.

"You, sitting here now, have a pretty good idea as to who you are, but I challenge you to continue to stretch and imagine what you might become—and pursue that vision. Whether it takes you to a new field or geographic setting; do it with purpose, passion, and intensity.”

Click here to read his acceptance speech in full.