January 2019

Craig Bernecker, Ph.D., FIES, LC
Director, MFA Lighting Design Program
Associate Professor of Lighting Design, Parsons School of Design


Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
My start in lighting is a long story, so I’ll try the Cliff Notes version. With an undergrad degree in psychology in hand, I wound up at Penn State’s architectural engineering program with the intent to be an architect. Unknown to me at the time, John Flynn was the lighting faculty member at Penn State exploring the psychology of lighting, and through a series of twists, I became his graduate assistant while earning my MS in Architectural Engineering, where we worked on psychology of lighting studies but also generated the first computer graphic rendering of a lighted space. Taking a position after graduation as a lighting specialist at Ballinger, a large Philadelphia A&E firm, I also began teaching lighting at the University of Pennsylvania on behalf of John Flynn, saving him a weekly commute from State College, PA to Philadelphia. Finally, after moving to San Francisco to take a position with Peerless focusing on application engineering, I was called back to Pennsylvania to take over John Flynn’s position after his untimely death. I got into lighting and later into academia, now more than thirty years ago, through a series of twists and turns that involved John Flynn as a mentor..

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
My first involvement with IESNYC was at the Society’s annual conference held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. I met a number of members of the section while attending as a graduate student, including Howard Brandston and David Mintz, among others, with Howard allowing a fellow graduate student, Greg Subisak, and I to sleep on the floor of his office – I think something Howard will never let me forget! Greg and I were awed by the conference, watching Dave DiLaura and Domina Eberle Spencer argue the mathematics of lighting in a papers session.
My first direct involvement with IESNYC was as a recipient of the Richard Kelly Grant as a young faculty member at Penn State. I came to New York to accept the award at an IESNYC luncheon as a part of LIGHTFAIR’s predecessor, Lighting World International, actually started by IESNYC. Years later, I came to New York to give a presentation at an IESNYC meeting on work we’d done at Penn State on the impact of veiling reflections in computer monitors on visual performance. I have also been in New York for every Lighting World International and LIGHTFAIR held there, indirectly forging relationships with IESNYC members through networking events held as a part of these shows. I’ve also worked with quite a number of IESNYC members (Dan Blitzer, Addison Kelly, Peter Jacobson, Brian Stacy, Melanie Taylor, and Joseph Belfer, among others), while serving as the Educational Facilitator for LIGHTFAIR’s Conference Advisory Committee. But my real involvement with IESNYC has only come about with my recruitment to serve on the faculty of the Lighting Design Program at Parsons, now some twelve years ago.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
I actually see it expanding. Although I live in Pennsylvania in the northwest suburbs of Philadelphia and have had my membership associated with the Philadelphia Section of IES, as my position at Parsons has expanded to full-time faculty to Program Director, I have spent more time in New York and attended more IESNYC events than Philadelphia events. Thus, it seemed silly to maintain my membership home there and recently formally transferred my membership to IESNYC. Given my IES home is now New York, it seems appropriate to participate even more in the activities of the section. I certainly intend, as Program Director at Parsons, to facilitate the involvement of my students in the activities of the section. I would also hope that my experience as a past president of IESNA would allow me to serve in some way to benefit the section.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
Obviously I am biased toward education, but this is one of the significant roles IESNYC plays in the lighting industry. The sponsorship of the Student Lighting Competition, the Thesis Prizes to Parsons, RPI, and NYSID — and the IESNYC Merit Scholarship — all have had a significant impact of lighting education, and particularly our program at Parsons. We incorporate participation in the Student Lighting Competition into our coursework with our students receiving awards a number of times, one of our students is selected annually for the thesis prize, and several students have received the IESNYC Merit Scholarship. Thus, we are greatly appreciative of this significant asset! From my perspective the monthly meetings themselves are an educational asset that benefits all of IESNYC’s members, and the Lumen Awards, while a wonderful celebration of design, is also an educational benefit. The Lumen Awards occur during a week when we run a intensive lighting design studio for practicing professionals and I have regularly attempted to bring our participants, who hail from all around the world, to the event to learn from the projects presented there. IESNYC’s focus on bringing benefits to its members even harkens back to the initiation of the major trade show, Lighting World International, to benefit it’s members knowledge about lighting, and also to raise funds to support the activities of the section. Another significant asset is the networking provided between the largest lighting design community in the world and manufacturers, sales agencies and others who support the lighting industry. There is a wealth of knowledge and history in this community that is likely not found anywhere else. And that is certainly an asset!

My IES background
Other than my trip to New York for the 1977 IES Conference, my real involvement with IES began with the Philadelphia Section, where I attended monthly meetings but also often represented my boss at Ballinger, Allen Weiss, at Board of Managers meetings. Ironically, many years later when I returned to the Philadelphia area and started the Lighting Education Institute, I served on the Board of Mangers myself.

In between while at Penn State, I served on the IES Education Committee and was asked to revitalize the Psychological Aspects of Lighting Committee of IES that had become dormant with John Flynn’s passing.

In 1991, I thought I’d become more involved at the society level and interviewed with the Nominations Committee for a position as director. Again somewhat ironically, I was asked if I’d be willing to serve as Vice President of Technical Activities, a position that existed at the time to provide oversight of all the technical committees of the society, rather than director. After two years in that role (1991-1993), I was asked to serve in a similar capacity as Vice President of Educational Activities (1993-1995). One of the things I consider a major accomplishment during my tenure as VP Technical Activities, was to split a committee called Recommendations on Quality and Quantity into one called Recommendations on Visual Performance and another called the Quality of the Visual Environment Committee. This was because the RQQ Committee only focused on visual performance recommendations and ignored more qualitative design issues. A direct result of this split was the publication of the Design Guides in the 2000 edition of the IES Handbook. Two other accomplishments were the creation of the Technical Memorandum (TC) publication, intended to be a nimble means for addressing cutting edge technical issues, and establishing the Technical Review Council of members with specific technical expertise to review technical publications rather than rely solely on the Board of Directors for reviewing such publications.

I took a hiatus from IES activities as I was heavily involved in developing Penn State’s World Campus, got married, and ultimately took on an administrative position as Executive Director of the Penn State-Albright Partnership, an exploration of collaboration between a large, regional public university and a more local private college. After a few years not teaching lighting and having relocated to the Philadelphia area for the Executive Director position, I decided to get back to teaching lighting by forming my own business, The Lighting Education Institute in 2001, targeting the large segment of the lighting industry that had never had the opportunity for any kind of formal lighting education.

Getting back to being involved in teaching lighting also meant getting back to being involved with IES. That’s when my Philadelphia Section involvement began anew. Seeking to also get involved at the society level, I approached Pam Horner, IES President, at the IES Salt Lake City Conference in 2002 about possibly getting involved as a director. Her response was, “Well, how about running for Senior Vice President/President Elect rather than Director?” And that is how I began the three-year process of serving as Senior VP--President--Immediate Past President from 2003 through 2006. I actually had the pleasure of serving as the 100th president of the society (2004-2005), and count among our accomplishments while I was president the revamping of the annual conference, which had been suffering from low attendance, ushering in the centennial year, and putting the mechanism in place to create the Luminaire Classification System and B-U-G rating system for outdoor luminaires. I also served on the LIGHTFAIR Management Committee for both my term and my successor’s. when we oversaw a major makeover for LIGHTFAIR.

As a past president, I chaired and served on the Board of Nomination for a number of years following my presidency, more recently on the Educational Advisory Council, and currently serve on the Marks Committee and the Nomenclature Committee.