Lutron Electronics has made the sad announcement that Joel Spira, the company’s Chairman, Founder, and Director of Research, passed away on 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.
Susan Hakkarainen, Joel’s daughter and Senior Vice President at Lutron said, “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 lamps, 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.
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 ofElectrical 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.”