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Lutron Releases Statement About Passing of Joel Spira

Last week, tED magazine ran Mr. Spira’s obituary, below please find Lutron’s statement.

In Memoriam: Lutron Chairman and Founder Joel Spira

The Lutron family is deeply saddened to announce that Joel Spira, the company’s Chairman, Founder, and Director of Research, died Wednesday, April 8, 2015.

Starting from a Riverside Drive ping pong table in New York City, Joel and his wife Ruth founded a company that now sells lighting controls, motorized shades and temperature controls that are used in residences, palaces, offices, hotels, museums, and other venues in over 100 countries.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joel’s wife Ruth, and his entire family. As the founder of Lutron Electronics, Joel created a business focused on the customer experience and benefiting society. He not only patented the electronic light dimmer but developed an entirely new industry dedicated to lighting control. His profound influence affects all of us in the Lutron family and encourages generations of young engineers, scientists, and designers to become innovators in lighting control and in the fields of engineering and physics. His innovations not only save energy, but also make people’s lives better by creating residential and commercial spaces that are more comfortable and more pleasant,” said Michael Pessina, President of Lutron Electronics.

Susan Hakkarainen, Joel’s daughter and Senior Vice President at Lutron said, “My father always felt that we should design from a customer perspective rather than just focusing on the technology. His objective is to always make products that are technically excellent but also beautiful so that people will enjoy them in their homes, offices, restaurants, hotels, museums, schools, healthcare facilities and everywhere they work, live, and play. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and friend, and considered every employee to be part of his extended family.”

Spira formed Lutron Electronics in 1961 to market his invention of the first solid-state dimmer for incandescent lighting. Under his 54-year leadership, Lutron has developed products to control all types of light bulbs, including LEDs as well as shade and temperature controls. As recently as Tuesday evening, Joel was actively working with a team of engineers on the new Lutron Caséta Wireless smart home system, which includes dimmers, switches, thermostats and window shades that can be controlled from the Apple iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

Always committed to manufacturing products that save energy and provide a benefit to society, the many energy-efficient dimming products produced by Lutron save the nation approximately 9.2 billion kWh annually, an output equivalent to one large nuclear power plant, or about $1 billion in energy costs. Spira is credited with more than 300 United States design and utility patents. Lutron products have received many design awards. The Lutron NovaT*® dimmer has been collected by MOMA, and the Vierti® dimmer has been collected by the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. In 2010, items from Lutron’s 50-year history were donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Caroll Neubauer, Chairman and CEO of B. Braun Medical, Inc. said, “I had the true privilege of knowing and working with Joel Spira. I admired him as a brilliant inventor, a successful entrepreneur and a wonderful man. I have lost a good friend.”

Spira graduated from Purdue University in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. Since then he has received honors and distinctions too numerous to list. In 1995 he was cited as one of Purdue University’s “Distinguished Graduates for Outstanding Invention”, and received the Leonardo DaVinci Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2000.

Spira is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He has received honorary Doctorates from Lehigh University, Muhlenberg College, and Purdue University.

Spira served on advisory boards and councils, and he and Ruth supported Excellence in Teaching awards at Carnegie Mellon University, The Cooper Union, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Lehigh University, M.I.T., Muhlenberg College, Penn State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, and his own Purdue University.

U.S. Representative Charlie Dent offered this tribute, “Joel Spira was a giant of American Industry – an Edison-like inventor and a great man very much dedicated to his family, company, employees and community. I have known Joel for over twenty-five years. He was a larger-than-life figure to me. I’m deeply saddened by his passing and my family’s thoughts and prayers are with Joel’s family and friends. Joel invented the dimmer, but his memory will always shine bright.”

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