Gordon Pearlman Named 2016 “Wally” Lifetime Achievement Winner

The Board of Directors of the Wally Russell Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2015/2016 Lifetime Achievement Award is renowned inventor, entrepreneur, and innovator, Gordon Pearlman.

The award will be presented at the USITT Exhibition and Conference in Salt Lake City on March 18th at a breakfast celebration. 

Pearlman has been an innovator in our industry for over 45 years, and it can be safely said that few have made greater contributions to the technology of lighting control for entertainment and architectural lighting than he has. Throughout his career, he has combined art and technology to create unique lighting tools that have been both commercial and artistic successes.

His resume is a who’s who of our industry including:

  • Electronics Diversified
  • Kliegl Brothers Lighting
  • Entertainment Technology
  • Lightolier Controls (now Philips Lighting Controls)
  • Strand Lighting (Entertainment and Architectural controls)
  • Philips Entertainment (Vari-Lite, Entertainment Technology, Strand Lighting)

Beginning at the University of North Carolina where he was an assistant professor and lighting designer, his life changed when a student asked for help creating a system to control 36 slide projectors (remember those?). He taught himself Basic and started down a new career path. That path led him to create the LS-8®, the first theatrical computer lighting control console. It was used on Broadway for Tharon Musser’s design of A Chorus Line. The LS-8® opened the door to the acceptance of computer lighting control in our industry. From the LS-8® and Electronics Diversified, he moved on to Kliegl Bros as their Director of Development where he created the Performance®, Command Performance®, and the extremely successful industry standard Performer® I,II, and III consoles that saw wide use in both permanent installations and touring productions. The Performer® series and the Strand Lighting mini-Palette® dominated the mid-range console market for many years.

In the mid 80’s, Pearlman started Entertainment Technology with Steve Carlson, creating products for both ET and others. Brands like the Great American Market Access® consoles delivered computer lighting control to all levels of users along with the popular Horizon PC® based controls. During this time, he also developed the Strand Lighting Impact® console, which became one of Strand Lighting’s most successful products for both theatre and television customers. The Morpheus Light Commander® soon followed, becoming his first automated lighting control for concert lighting.  

During this time, Pearlman worked on the introduction of the first big change in dimming since the advent of the SCR: the development of IGBT choke-less dimmers. This dimmer technology was available in portable dimmer strips, permanent dimmer racks, and delivered effectively silent dimming without the use of voltage dropping filter chokes. These dimmers are still shipping today in products from Philips Lighting Controls and Philips Entertainment.  In 2010, Pearlman became a Fellow of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

Pearlman’s interests go beyond entertainment lighting control. His contributions to architectural lighting have also been exceptional. Working with Lightolier, he developed the Lytemode® and Scenist® family of lighting controls. They brought presets to architectural lighting, banishing walls full of rotary and slider controls to create the first microprocessor controls that fit into a wall box. These products earned Pearlman a fellowship in the Illuminating Engineering Society. He went on to extend and develop Strand Lighting’s Vision.net® controls adding advanced touchscreen controls that can control today’s highly sophisticated color changing and automated lighting.

Pearlman began his career in 1966 as a lighting designer and continues to practice this craft from time to time from his home in Portland, Oregon. He is spending his retirement with his wife, Sondra, his children, and grandchildren.

The award will be presented on March 18th at a breakfast celebration at the Salt Lake City Convention Center in conjunction with USITT’s trade show and exhibition. Following the breakfast, the Wally Russell Mentoring award will be presented as part of the USITT Distinguished Achievement Award Winners in Conversation in the South Grand Ballroom.

For further information regarding the Wally Russell Foundation, the Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award, the Wally Russell Lighting Intern Program at the Los Angeles Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, or the Wally Russell Annual Mentoring Award, or to contribute to the Wally Foundation, please visit the website.

Wally Award Winners

  • 2015/2016 – Gordon Pearlman
  • 2013/2014 – Jules Fisher
  • 2012 – Imero Fiorentino
  • 2011 – Rusty Brutche
  • 2010 – Dave Cunningham
  • 2009 – Joel Rubin
  • 2008 – Richard Pilbrow
  • 2007 – Fred Foster
  • 2006 – Allen Branton
  • 2005 – Richard Belliveau
  • 2004 – George Izenour
  • 2003 – Sonny Sonnenfeld
  • 2002 – Jimmy Fuller
  • 2001 – Jim Bornhorst
  • 2000 – Stan Miller
  • 1999 – Don Stern
  • 1998 – Bran Ferren
  • 1997 – Fred Bentham
  • 1996 – Francis DeVerna
  • 1995 – Tharon Musser
  • 1994 – George van Buren
  • 1993 – Charles Altman
  • 1992 – Wally Russell

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