Two organizations have served as the primary grant and funding entities for lighting education in North America for the past several decades: The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education, which was established in 1988 and named for lighting educator Jim Nuckolls who established the lighting design program at Parsons The New School for Design, and the International Association of Lighting Designers’ (IALD) Education Trust, which was established in 1999.

Given the unique role that each plays in the lighting community, these two organizations have been asked to do much when it comes to providing significant funding resources for students and educators. But with a limited list of resources that serve the lighting community as whole, has the lighting community taken the organizations for granted? architectural lighting spoke with the current presidents of each organization, Jeffrey Milham of the Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education and Steven Rosen of the IALD Education Trust, for their thoughts on the state of lighting education and the specific roles their two organizations play.

When the Fund and the Trust were established, respectively, was there anything like either in the lighting industry in terms of a granting and scholarship outlet?

Jeffrey Milham
Adam Tetzloff Jeffrey Milham

Jeff Milham: The Besal Fund at the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) was already established when we began the Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education in 1989, but it was administered in a completely different way. It was for student scholarships at specific schools chosen by the Besal Fund, which was underwritten by a single lighting manufacturer— Acuity Brands. The Nuckolls Fund wanted to promote better lighting design education by supporting the schools teaching lighting. We did that primarily by putting out RFPs and asking for grant proposals, which we funded if we felt they had merit. Our first grant in 1989 was $5,000 to Penn State University, but over the past 26 years, we have given a total of $895,000 to support lighting education.

Steven Rosen
Steven Rosen

Steven Rosen: The Trust was established in 1999, when, to our knowledge, there were no granting institutions specifically looking to sponsor students of architectural lighting design; this was the main inspiration for starting the fund. In 2000, the IALD Awards dinner at Lightfair became a fundraiser for the Trust. That dinner has become the mainstay of Trust revenue and growth. The success of the Trust is due to the combined efforts of the volunteers (designers and other lighting industry professionals) and staff. Then there is the generosity of the lighting industry supporters who purchase tables for the dinner. Are the Fund and the Trust where you want them to be after all these years?

Milham: There is always room for growth and improvement. We’d like to support more lighting education programs but are limited by how much we can give out on an annual basis.

Rosen: Our work is never done. The Trust focuses on four pillars or areas: Students, Educators, Academic Institutions, and Fundraising. As the IALD continues to build both an appreciation of architectural lighting design and support of the lighting design community worldwide, so too must the Trust do more to encourage and build an awareness of lighting design education on an international level. We currently support many constituents but the demand continues to outpace our resources. We look to an ever-growing roster of individuals and corporations to embrace and financially support what we do.

What are some of the challenges in keeping the Fund and the Trust going?

Milham: Our greatest challenge is financial. We have been so fortunate in having people serve on the Nuckolls Fund’s board of directors who have dedicated themselves to our grant and awards programs with absolutely no benefit to themselves. Many have served term after term and I can only say how fortunate the Fund has been to have had that ongoing support.

Rosen: Money. It takes a lot of energy on the part of IALD and Lighting Industry Resource Council (LIRC) members, the Trust board, and our staff to continue the funding process year after year. And we are always looking for new ways to build our coffers: from encouraging people to shop through the IALD Trust portal of AmazonSmile, to buying a blue ribbon at industry events, to encouraging manufacturers to support our teaching tools program, etc.

My predecessor—the late, great Ron Naus—was leading a plan-of-work effort to be more creative about ways to increase our funding sources. We hope to continue to honor his commitment and his memory.

Any new plans for creating more outreach?

Milham: Last year, we completed an overhaul of the Nuckolls Fund’s website and created an Educational Resources section. It contains eight separate teaching modules that can be used by anyone interested in lighting design education. This year, we are developing an electronic database of lighting educators with whom we can communicate and thus encourage them to use the educational resources we offer on our website. The Nuckolls Fund initiated this effort, but it has become a joint effort where we are trying to coordinate with the IALD Education Trust and the IES Education Committee.

Rosen: The growth of IALD presence worldwide means the Trust will also be looking to forge new and stronger alliances and programs.

Do there need to be more granting/scholarship organizations in the lighting industry?

Milham: There is always room for more support of lighting design education. The Nuckolls Fund and the IALD Education Trust have never been competitive, but rather supportive of one another. I would encourage the development of any new grant or scholarship organization. We would complement one another and thus do more for lighting design education.

Rosen: Whatever it takes to increase funding for lighting education is a step in the right direction. Certainly, different segments of the lighting industry attract different stakeholders, so having a variety of organizations seeking donations is never a bad thing.

Thoughts on the state of lighting education?

Milham: Lighting education is not in a good place. Most universities now require faculty to have a Ph.D. in order to qualify for tenure. Since there are almost no Ph.D. programs available in lighting in the U.S., fewer and fewer schools have faculty that are qualified to teach lighting. As those who have taught lighting retire or leave academia for the private sector, we are losing some of our best lighting programs. We are in desperate need of more lighting design faculty.

Rosen: There is a lot of discussion in the international lighting community about this. There seems to be consensus that something needs to be done about lighting education, but what is needed is a bit more challenging to articulate. The IALD Trust is in the early stages of developing a needs assessment about lighting education which will go out to the lighting community. A problem is best solved by first understanding what folks are both thinking and are passionate about.