John Paul Schaefer was dean of the University of Arizona College of Liberal Arts when he became the 15th president of the University of Arizona in 1971. Only 36 years old when he assumed the office, he was the second youngest UA president. Born on Sept. 17, 1934, in New York City, he received a bachelor’s degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1955, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1958. Following his postdoctoral studies, he taught chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, before coming to the UA as a chemistry professor in 1960. He also served as head of the chemistry department from 1968 to 1970.
Schaefer is credited by many with setting the University on the path that led to its current status as a research university. He approved the University’s participation in the Multiple Mirror Telescope, a project that revolutionized thinking about optical telescope design. During his tenure he broke ground for and dedicated the new Main Library.
An avid and highly skilled photographer, Schaefer developed a friendship with photographer Ansel Adams that led to the creation of the Center for Creative Photography in 1975. The center was created after Schaefer asked Adams to entrust the University with his archives. Adams agreed under the condition that Schaefer create a repository for a collection of photographic artists. Today, the center holds the works of more than 2,000 photographers.
Schaefer resigned as the University’s president in 1982 and became chairman of the board of directors of Tucson Electric Power Co. He also served also as president and CEO of Research Corp. from 1988 to December 2004. In this role, he helped fund the Large Binocular Telescope project on Mount Graham. He has published five books on photography, an organic chemistry textbook, numerous scientific articles and many articles on photography.
Schaefer was designated President Emeritus by the Arizona Board of Regents.