Joel Spira, 88, chairman and founder of Lutron Electronics, inventor of the solid-state dimmer switch, and 2010 National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Falk Award winner, died April 8.

“Quite simply, he was a man who loved his family and work, and used that synergy to make our homes and workplaces comfortable,” said Kevin J. Cosgriff, president and CEO, NEMA. “His work in lighting controls established a new industry sector. In turn, that industry became the means to significant energy savings. NEMA is honored to have had the opportunity to work with and honor Joel as an industry leader and innovator.”

Spira and his wife Ruth launched the world’s first solid-state dimmer from their New York City apartment in 1959. Since then, Spira expanded the company’s offerings to include the first dimming ballast, the first reliable wireless lighting control system, and other innovations.

Born March 1, 1927, in New York City, Spira served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and earned a degree in physics from Purdue University in 1948. He is credited with more than 300 design and utility patents in the U.S. and 2,700 patents across the globe.

Spira is survived by his wife Ruth Rodale Spira, to whom he was married for 60 years; his sister Miriam Spira Poser (her husband Joseph Poser); daughters Susan Spira Hakkarainen (husband Pekka Hakkarainen), Lily Spira Housler (husband Ryan Housler), and Juno Spira; and grandsons Ari Hakkarainen, Max Hakkarainen, and Bailey Malanczuk.

The family has requested memorial donations in lieu of flowers. Checks may be specifically made out to The Joel S. Spira Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Education Fund and/or The Joel S. Spira Intl. Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) Education Trust Fund, P.O. Box 850, Coopersburg, Pennsylvania 18036.

Publication date: 5/4/2015