Optics Community Says Good-bye to Marty Dvorin

Marty’s Obit: penned by the man himself, of course.
Also included is a two-part article that he wrote for the RRPC newsletter in 2009.

Martin Dvorin left our world in his sleep Monday, March 11, 2019.

Marty with a couple of his former students at Photonics West in 2011

Marty came into our world January 31, 1923 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, to Minnie and Irving Dvorin, and grew up in a neighborhood of four family private brick houses, pushcarts, the famous Loews’ Pitkin Theater (where one could momentarily forget the great Depression), and notorious mobsters (“Murder, Incorporated”). Marty’s younger brother, Robert, was born September 4, 1927.

Education started in P.S. 165, P.S. 183, and the Samuel J. Tilden High School until May, 1936 when the Dvorin Family moved from New York to Linden, New Jersey. Marty graduated in June, 1940, from Linden High School, where he took all college prep courses, four years of metal shop and other shops. He was Chief Photographer for the School Yearbook. Afternoons and summers he worked in a photo shop.

Dissuaded from applying to college, after graduation Marty worked in a jewelry shop, then at the General Instrument Corporation, where, through a series of moves, he became a model and toolmaker at age 19. It was at this time that Marty met the enduring sweetheart of his life and partner for 50 years, Harriette Gandel, who was attending Newark State Teachers College on a four-year competitive scholarship. On October 31 (Hallowe’en), 1942, they were introduced by Marty’s cousin, Charlotte Dvorin, who was attending college with Harriette.

World War Two arrived; Marty enlisted in the United States Navy and was sworn in on November 16, 1942, as an apprentice seaman. After Boot Camp, where Marty did stand up comedy acts, Marty attended Wentworth Institute in Boston, Mass., studying marine engineering, where he graduated with honors, earning a medal for being top man of fifteen thousand students. From the South Pacific Theater of Operations, the Navy sent Marty back to the U.S. Mainland, to the Engineering School at Columbia University, where he made the Dean’s List every trimester. That war over, Marty returned to active service. Harriette and Marty were married December 22, 1945. Marty was honorably discharged in April, 1946, as a Machinists’ Mate, First Class.

With two years’ engineering school “under his belt,” Marty returned to General Instrument Corp. as a technician, and soon was promoted to Production Engineer, automatic record changers. (Remember vinyl?) Another recession and Marty was unemployed, but worked as a photographer until returning to industry as Chief Industrial Engineer for Lavoie Labs in Morganville, New Jersey. He completed his B.S. in May, 1958, at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, with majors in Mechanical and Management Engineering, and a minor in Fine Arts at Rutgers University. He was inducted into Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, the first in that college as a fully employed night school student. On that same stage, fifteen minutes before Marty, “Kid brother” Robert Dvorin received the B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Quirk of the alphabet, and a family joke.

While still an undergraduate, Marty was employed as Plant Manager, Eastern Division of Revell, Incorporated. Leaving Revell, Marty became Manager of Quality Assurance for Wilpet Tool and Manufacturing in Kearney, NJ, then changed direction to do creative product design, with interests more suited to his desires.

As Manager, New Products Development for the Glaser-Steers Division of Ametek, Marty conceived, then led the engineering team that developed a new concept in automatic record changers. This design, one of the world’s most popular, and the first cordless portable, manufactured and marketed by the General Electric Corp., was shown at the 1964 World’s Fair in NYC and featured in Life Magazine and technical journals. For this project, Marty was awarded the first two of several patents for his many inventions in a variety of products.

In October, 1960, Bausch and Lomb, Inc., invited Marty to Rochester, NY, where he became B&L’s “skunk works,” recruiting teams of engineers to develop exciting new concepts in Opto-electromechanical systems. Projects included early fiber optics manufacturing, cameras for the CIA and instrumentation that was used to pinpoint the lunar landing sites for the NASA Apollo program. During this time, Marty attended the Institute of Optics nights at the University of Rochester, earning the M.S. in optical engineering in May, 1966.

At that time, the U.S.A. was facing a national crisis: we were losing our optical technicians to deaths and retirements. Marty and others realized as well that we also needed to launch a new generation of photonics systems technicians, with new skills, for emerging technologies and Marty was recruited to build a program at Rochester’s Monroe Community College to address this problem. First, while finishing up a project for B&L, he taught nights as Adjunct, then joined the M.C.C. faculty in August, 1968, as a Full Professor, tenured.

The M.C.C. optics/photonics program made it a point to recruit minority students, which at the time included women. After a tumultuous start, the pioneering Optical Systems Technology Program became internationally recognized as world class (“a natural resource”), and many similar programs have grown up around the United States. In 1976, Marty was elected “Dean Martin,” founding dean of the newly established Division of Engineering Technologies at M.C.C. In 1977/78 he sponsored an Israeli scientist’s sabbatical. In 1980, partially for health reasons and partially because continuity had been established, Marty took early retirement, to return to industry, and soon received a plethora of unsolicited job offers.

The one which was most appealing was as Chief Scientist for Optical Sciences Group of San Rafael, California, which was expanding to a modern, enlarged facility in Petaluma. When the new plant became operational, Marty changed direction, spending more time researching, out of necessity, Health and Longevity, on which he wrote and lectured after “rebuilding” himself as a coronary artery disease patient. Harriette and Marty also taught on-site courses in optical technology and techniques to companies in Silicon Valley.

Marty’s great love, Harriette, died on September 27, 1992, of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

Although heartbroken, Marty planned to go on continuing with his active life, which included writing in several venues, researching and reading in various areas which had not been included in his previous schooling.

He had a six-year happy relationship with Joyce Hunter. They ate and travelled together and Marty also took solo trips. Joyce died of “pre-existing” illnesses, and Marty had the company of three successive companions, with whom he shared activities in which they had common interests.

In the year 2000, deciding it was time to seek a new environment, Marty moved to the Marin Valley Mobile Country Club in Novato, California, living in a double wide coach, for which he designed and built additions that made living there easier, safer and more efficient.

Marty has had several health “events,” and used the knowledge from his research to each time “rebuild” himself to a more functioning, active senior. Until seriously injured in February, 2014, he could be found hiking the hills around his home, cooking his international meals in his easy to maneuver “galley,” or composing on his iMac, which was slowly learning to let him use it.

He maintained an active social life, and kept in contact with his former students, his “extended family,” some of whom have build internationally recognized leading state of the art precision photonics companies.

Marty leaves two daughters, Miriam Dvorin Spross, PhD (Rex A. Spross), who teaches World Music at Santa Rosa J.C., and Rebecca Dvorin Strong (Fred Strong), an artist living in Seattle, Washington.

The “apple of Marty’s eye” is granddaughter Emma Dvorin Strong, a graduate of the University of Washington, Seattle, who majored in Social Anthropology and Dance and minored in Education. She now lives in Oakland.

Marty also leaves his brother, Robert Dvorin (Vicki Dvorin), of New York City.

A talented family and a cadre of skilled students are included in Marty Dvorin’s legacy.

Written by Marty, Novato, California, Jan., 2014, rev. Feb., 2016

Friends and family are invited to attend the Funeral Service, Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 1:00 pm at the PARENT-SORENSEN MORTUARY, 850 Keokuk St., Petaluma.  Interment: B’nai Israel Cemetery, Petaluma.

Marty on Skype with the PCC Optics Club in 2016


Marty wrote a two-part reminiscence for the RRPC Newsletter in 2009. Here it is reprinted in its entirety:

In the early 1960’s, the Optical Society of America, in a research effort “Optics – an Action Program”, under the direction of its president, Van Zandt Williams, determined that, from both retirements and deaths, the United States was losing its optical technicians. Independently, Corwin Brumley, Vice President for R&D at Bausch and Lomb, I, and others around the coffee pot came to the same conclusion. Optics was changing. We did not have the technicians with the skills needed for present and future projects. All of this pointed to an impending national crisis.One afternoon, in the summer of 1966, while I was working away in my ‘skunk works’ office at Bausch and Lomb, there was a knock on the partition opening that served as a door.

“Martin Dvorin?”

“The same. And you are?”

“Frank Milligan, assistant to the Vice President of Faculty at Monroe Community College. May I come in?”

How he was directed to me, I’ll never know, but Dr. Milligan came to ask me to take over the Optical Technology Program at M.C.C. At the time I was Technical Director of a large R&D contract, a project that I could not leave until it was delivered. So we settled for my teaching nights, adjunct, at the ‘campus,’ an abandoned high school on downtown Alexander Street (414 Alexander Street, converted to apartments in 1980).

That first evening, in September 1966, I faced 13 younger Marty Dvorins, when, in 1951, I started my own night school program which had only concluded a few months previously in the spring of 1966 (note: Marty got his Masters Degree from the Institute of Optics in 1966, after 15 years of night school while working a full-time job).

Among the students present were Robert Novak and the late Harvey Pollicove. We had a cozy lecture hall, and high school Cenco lab equipment and maybe some from drug stores. We used photographic equipment from the Police Science Department. My shared desk sat in a “bull pen” office, which housed faculty from many departments. Dr. Howard Smith of Eastman Kodak was the other part-time faculty member.

In the spring of 1968, the B&L project having been delivered, I could take on full-time duties at the College. Since my goal was to teach what would be useful to students in their work, I wanted lots of input from the local companies which would be hiring them. I visited several in the area and interviewed managers, filling in a survey that included questions such as what equipment the graduates would use, what skills they would need, and most secretive of all, how many graduates would be hired in one, two and five years.

The agreement with the employers was this: information from any one company would be absolutely confidential, but the totals from all companies would be public knowledge. I took the results, and added in a little “technology forecasting,” imagining what future developments might be in store. All of this went into the design of the MCC optics courses and recruiting plans. The advisory committee was pleased with what I presented. Also, I would be actively recruiting minorities, which in 1968 included women.

The first course in the new campus, a Survey of Optics, for the general public, was presented in the summer of 1968. The first full-time optics students entered in the fall of 1968, to unfinished facilities. “Blackboards” were corrugated cartons.

One day, Dr. James Walsh, V.P. Faculty, entered and stood quietly in the back of the room. I always invited any member of the faculty to sit in. I was lecturing by the light of my Coleman lantern. Jim had heard of this and wanted to observe it. I was a one-man department, and we did a lot of improvisation and construction. Money was tight. Local companies contributed equipment and supplies, and I brought in my own darkroom stuff. Steve Avery was the first student aide. When he saw me clamber up onto a darkroom counter he said, “Marty you’re pretty agile for an old guy!”

I was forty-five years old at the time – a real old guy!

Part Two

One morning, Ouida Norris, Chair of Biomedical Engineering Technology, stormed into my sixth floor corner office and showed me a newspaper article saying that, because of financial conditions, the College was investigating canceling both of our programs. Now there were two storming people, barging into the office of Leroy Goode, the College President. “Don’t worry, nothing is happening, yet.” Happily, nothing did.

Being a one-man department was exhausting me, so I went to the Faculty office, and requested another person. Charles Ball, then in the Audiovisual Department, had expressed interest. But the assistant was adamant: there was no money for additional staff. I had a prepared letter of resignation in my pocket, which I always kept in my desk in the event I needed it. (I never did). I flashed it. The guy shrank back, like a vampire might from garlic. Then I went back to my office and called Theron Carter at Kodak. “Ted, this is Marty. H-E-L-P!” and hung up the telephone. Somehow, Charlie was transferred to the Optical Technology Department. The Rochester optics industry has always been supportive of the Program.

Budget money did come in, and we bought better lab equipment from Ealing and others. I called the late Alex Martens, a V.P. at B&L, my alma mater. “Alex, I need a spectrometer”. “Marty, I can’t give you a new one. They are expensive. But I’ll lend you a used one.” “When?” “Oh, I can use one in the next few days.” Alex, bless him, had one in a raincoat pocket when he came into our lab. Kodak gave us the first lens polishers. 500 plastic containers came from a former employer in Kearney, New Jersey.

Students were coming in; graduates were getting hired. Bob Novak, having just received his B.S.degree from Arizona University, visited the department. The details are hazy, but somehow Bob joined the department the next semester. Then we were three. And Howie Smith, of course.

1971 was a watershed year for MCC’s optics program. To widen the market for our graduates, during summers, my late wife Harriette and I motored to New England. We would camp in our 1969 Dodge Sportsman van at Salisbury Beach Park, Mass., and visit companies around Route 128. I signed many confidentiality agreements and saw a lot of “company secrets.” Recruiters came from Lawrence Livermore Labs in California, and hired many of our graduates. With four-year engineering grads having trouble finding jobs, our story was in the newspapers and on local television. When Dennis Gabor won the Nobel Prize for Holography, Howie and I were invited to explain holography on a morning TV program. The Rochester Section of the OSA held meetings and pre-meeting dinners at the MCC campus, and I was invited to be President of the Rochester OSA for the year 1972-1973. In the summer of 1973, Harriette and I drove the van around the USA and visited Colleges and companies to further expand coverage. Around the Los Angeles area, the SPIE housed us and arranged for visits to important installations. The Optics Survey went national.

We applied for a federal grant, and were awarded enough money to add, among other things, a Bridgeport milling machine and a Strasbaugh polisher. We hired other people from industry as adjuncts. With an Education Committee, we set up a transfer program so that graduates from MCC could continue at the Rochester Institute of Technology or the University of Rochester, working towards a B.S., M.S. or a PhD degree. Feature articles describing the optics program were published in Applied Optics and several other international journals.

The Optical Engineering Technology program at Monroe had come of age. If not for that original visit from Frank Milligan, I just might have gone over and applied for the job that was offered to me that day back in 1966.

Marty Dvorin UR Optics ’66
was Chairman of MCC’s Optics Program from 1966 – 1976
Dean of MCC Engineering Technologies 1976 – 1978
Marty lived in Marin County, California


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