The lighting industry has lost one of its original voices and thinkers. Marvin Gelman, founder of Lighting Services Inc, died yesterday in Westport, Conn., of cancer. He was 84.
Mr. Gelman began his career in lighting during the heyday of television as the lighting director of NBC's The Tonight Show with Steve Allen. It was there that he met his future wife Barbara Savini, a production assistant with the program. The two married in 1957. (Savini died in 1997.)
In 1958, Gelman left NBC to start his own consulting firm, Lighting Services Inc (LSI). The company's motto-“everything in lighting from design to installation"-spoke to Gelman's innate desire to produce quality illuminated environments. But within a few years, Gelman realized that the luminaires required of such lighting tasks were not available, and so he altered the company's direction to become a “specialty manufacturer of accent and display lighting.”
From its start, LSI has always been focused on quality and innovation, and the company is recognized within the industry as a leader in the field. Gelman was also an entrepreneur, and introduced track, accent, and display lighting. The company has been involved with installations at some of the most prominent museum, entertainment, and retail venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Hong Kong Museum of History, Walt Disney Theme Parks, Tiffany's, and Bergdorf Goodman.
Gelman was born on March 27, 1927, in New York. During World War II, he trained in electrical engineering while serving in the U.S. Navy. After the war, Gelman went on to study and graduate from New York University, and then began graduate studies in stage design and lighting at Columbia University. He joined the New York City Section of the Illuminating Engineering Society in 1950. In 2000, Gelman retired from LSI after 42 years as its founder and president. His son Daniel became president and CEO of the 110-person company at that time.
A longtime resident of Westport, Gelman was a passionate sailor. He was a member of the Saugatuck River Sail and Power Squadron and former Commander of Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 72 based in Norwalk, Conn.
Memorial contributions can be made to the International Association of Lighting Designers' Education Trust.
LSI has set up a section on its website to post memories and condolences.
The company has also posted a trio of video interview with Mr. Gelman.
In an ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING magazine interview with Daniel Gelman earlier this year, when he was asked what piece of advice his father gave him when he entered the lighting industry, the junior Gelman replied, “It wasn't so much advice as it was for me to create my own footprint that could work alongside him. Those are enormous shoes to fill, and I could never fill them.”