'I don't know where the next generation of lighting instructors is coming from,' said University of Colorado's David DiLaura, who is currently the senior instructor in the department of civil, environmental and architectural engineering. 'The industry is going to get caught short in five years as the number of those who are prepared to educate lighting people begins to dwindle. We don't have a good mechanism for bringing a new generation of lighting educators along and that's a long-term difficulty that we face.'
With most programs at major universities being headed by a single person and because universities require that faculty members have a Ph.D.-and 'there's no such thing as a Ph.D. in lighting'-the future of undergraduate lighting programs seems questionable. 'That's the trouble with these one-man/one-woman outfits: When something happens to that person, that's it,' he explained. 'And I don't know of anyone in any Ph.D. program now who's prepared to go into lighting.'
DiLaura became interested in lighting in 1966 when he worked part-time for a small engineering firm in Detroit. There, he encountered electrical and lighting engineer Stephen Squillace, who inspired him to pursue a career in lighting. 'He was my teacher and mentor,' said DiLaura. 'I worked for Steve for many years.' After receiving his B.S. in physics from Wayne State University in 1970, DiLaura helped Squillace establish a lighting group at the architectural engineering firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, where he would continue to work for the next 10 years, rising from principal researcher to chief illuminating engineer and eventually, an associate of the firm in 1980.
The year 1970 was also when DiLaura made his first foray into lighting education. Ronald Helms, then an instructor at the University of Colorado, invited him for a six-week stay as a guest lecturer in lighting engineering. 'That was my first official teaching function, but because teaching has a great deal of theater and I'm such a ham, I enjoyed it very much,' said DiLaura. In fact, the experience proved so enjoyable that he would return every autumn as a visiting lecturer for the next decade. After his 'long apprenticeship,' DiLaura was appointed associate professor adjunct in 1981, taking over for Helms and assuming full-time responsibilities for the undergraduate illuminating engineering program. At the same time, DiLaura had left Smith Hinchman & Grylls to start his own lighting engineering consulting company, Lighting Technologies. 'It was time,' he said. 'I was eager to provide software for other lighting engineers.' He gave up daily management of his company in 1994, when he was named senior instructor and went on to serve as interim associate dean for academic affairs and from1996-98, as associate chair.
In his 20 years at the University of Colorado, DiLaura strove to develop a lighting program that provides students with a thorough theoretical foundation to lighting engineering, equipping them with a solid understanding of such basics as lighting calculations and the inner-workings of electric circuits. Undeterred by the criticism of industry members who, 10-15 years ago, wanted new graduates to be immediately profitable, DiLaura has persisted in his vision with the belief that 'students who have a solid grounding in fundamentals are life-long learners. When new technology comes along, they'll be able to pick it up.'
A Fellow and medallist of the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), DiLaura has received numerous teaching awards, but now, with retirement in sight, he is troubled by the longevity of this and other programs in the U.S. 'After I retire, Bob Davis will be here by himself,' said DiLaura. 'That will be a setback for our program because I don't see anyone getting ready for him to hire.' While his path to his present position has been one of 'coming through the backdoor,' university hiring practices have become more restrictive since then. According to DiLaura, the solution may lie with a shift in hiring policies and increased industry participation. Although he applauds the industry for their involvement in the school's successful internship program, more support is needed in the training of future lighting educators. 'In most other disciplines, industry manages to support the educational activity of the country: Unfortunately, this has not happened in lighting,' said DiLaura. 'Companies, whether a manufacturer, engineering firm or designer, need to align themselves with a school and really understand its program. And finally, they need to provide funding or they're going to find that there won't be anyone to teach the people they want to hire.'