Yunck to Receive University and College Philanthropist Awards

Thomas Yunck, who has donated more than $12 million to Michigan State University, including more than $6 million to the College of Arts & Letters, is being honored with this year’s Michigan State University Alumni Association (MSUAA) Philanthropist Award to be presented at the MSUAA Grand Awards Gala on Thursday, October 19, at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center.

The College of Arts & Letters also will honor Yunck with its 2017 Michigan State University College of Arts & Letters Philanthropist Award during a special College of Arts & Letters Alumni Board luncheon ceremony on Friday, October 20.

“We are thrilled to recognize Dr. Yunck for his outstanding philanthropic spirit, inspiring charitable mindset, and generous investment in the transformative power of a Michigan State education,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “Dr. Yunck embodies the humility, integrity, and generosity of the Spartan community. His support has elevated the impact of our work. He is truly deserving of these awards.”

headshot of a man in a spartan polo
Dr. Thomas Yunck

Raised in Okemos, Yunck has a lifelong bond with mid-Michigan and MSU. His parents, John and Ruth, both attended Michigan State University as undergraduates. His father received his bachelor’s degree in English from MSU in 1938 and taught for MSU’s Department of English for 40 years. He also was head of MSU’s Comparative Literature Program and received the University’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1978. His mother built a career as a journalist in the East Lansing area and frequently attended the many educational, fitness, and travel programs offered by MSU.

In 2016, Thomas Yunck granted Michigan State University a $10.5 million bequest, which will be used toward his family’s endowments, including $2.092 million to establish the John and Ruth Yunck Family Endowed Professorship in Comparative Literature and $2.092 to create the Yunck Family Endowed Chair in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Previously, Yunck created the John and Ruth Yunck Endowed Chair in English and the John and Ruth Yunck Endowed Scholarship in English, both in honor of his late parents.

Not only has Yunck been generous with his money, he also has been generous with his time and has served as a volunteer for MSU’s Empower Extraordinary campaign.

The founder of GeoOptics Inc., Yunck currently serves as the company’s Chairman and Chief Technical Officer. Previously, he served as its Chief Executive Officer and President.

Known for his research on GPS signals, Yunck has helped pioneer the domestic and consumer usage of GPS technology. In 1988, he wrote the first proposal for exploiting GPS signals to sound the Earth’s atmosphere for weather and climate applications. Since this initial proposal, he has been involved in every aspect of the development and validation of GPS for atmospheric sounding.

In addition, Yunck holds the basic patent on the “state space” approach to Wide Area Differential GPS positioning, which has become a vital global industry.

Yunck holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Yale University. Prior to GeoOptics Inc., he served as the Chairman of the Foundation for Earth Science and as a Research Manager for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is an inductee into the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame.