It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Fred Heller, last Friday, peacefully at home. Fred was born September 4, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. As a youngster in Brooklyn, Fred took to scouting where he advanced and learned leadership skills that would serve him well. Fred entered the US Navy and served with the Naval Reserve from 1943 to 1946 and again from 1951 to 1952. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, earning a mechanical engineering degree in 1947.
His career started at Burndy Engineering where he remained for 17 years and from there in 1964 he joined Lightolier as VP for Operations, eventually leading the organization through several phases of growth as President and CEO including the company’s consolidation into the Genlyte Group in 1984 where he became President of the merged company and Chairman of the Board of Lightolier until he retired in 1992.
Fred was the consummate engineer and business leader, and truly an icon for a technical university like Rensselaer. In every position he has held, he has added value to the company and put money in the pockets of those he led. As head of Lightolier and later Genlyte, he transformed a family business into the most powerful and influential fixture company in North America. Fred served on the LRC Director’s Council since the inception of the LRC in 1988.
Fred was a generous man, sharing his experiences, wisdom and wealth with others. He changed the very course of the LRC, helping to bring the LRC, an academic institution, to relevance for a lighting industry that had never embraced research or education. Fred was known throughout the lighting industry for his “underachiever” speeches where he, as only Fred could do, pointed out with accuracy and lack of subtlety, the self-defeating mindset of an industry that ignores research and education. Fred helped shape the LRC and the lighting industry as it is today. To honor Fred for his wisdom and generosity, in 2013, he was named the inaugural recipient of the Glenn W. Bailey Industry Mentor Award.
Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.