Lighting Industry Loses an Icon

NAILD Bids Farewell to Paul Hafner

It is with heavy hearts that we write to let you know that Paul Hafner, a lighting industry veteran who created NAILD’s Lighting Specialist (LS) training programs and whom many considered an industry icon, passed away from pancreatic cancer on July 29.


Hafner worked in the lighting industry for nearly 30 years and made many contributions to NAILD, its educational programming and the industry at large. “Paul was an inspiration, mentor and friend to NAILD and its members,” Professional Lighting’s Becky Phillips, a past president of NAILD, said. “He created the foundation of our successful LS program and developed and maintained both LS-I and LS-II for many years. He also worked with the organization and board for many years during conference and board retreats to guide the organization to its current path. Paul’s passion for lighting was evident in his relationships with his friends, students and the industry. He genuinely cared for us and NAILD.”

Hafner created “The Transition of Legacy Sources to LED” (LS-I) and “Lighting Specialist II” (LS-II) and helped NAILD launch them in 2006. LS-I helps lighting sales employees better understand how and when customers should retrofit their facilities from incandescent and compact fluorescent light technologies to solid-state lighting (LEDs). LS-II takes that training one step further, focusing on retail, industrial, office and educational facilities. Both courses are a combination of expert technical instruction and hands-on field experience delivered through user-friendly, self-paced online courses that Hafner narrates.

Lighting Unlimited CEO Cory Schneider, who is NAILD’s current president, said Hafner’s death is a tremendous loss for NAILD and the entire lighting industry. “The guy was a genius,” Schneider said. “He was inspiring. He would walk into a room and everyone would be at attention, he just commanded the room. Any question you had on lighting, Paul had a story that would make you think. Most educators have never been in the field, but Paul was a field guy who became an educator. He was passionate and made it his life’s work. He inspired me to earn my Lighting Certification (LC). He always pushed you to be at the top of your field.”

Hafner was actively involved in NAILD up until his passing. He provided a transformative workshop at NAILD Innovation, which is the association’s annual conference, in February. His presentation, “Who Moved My Light Bulb: Adapting Your Business to the Future,” was a timely session that explored four different business models for the changing lighting industry landscape.

Hafner also recently taped an episode of Get a Grip on Lighting, the official podcast of NAILD. “This episode is all him and shows what kind of impact he had on lighting and NAILD,” said Greg Ehrich, vice president of Premier Lighting and a past president of NAILD.

Ehrich, who co-hosts the podcast series with NAILD member Michael Colligan of Atlas Lighting, said the episode featuring Hafner has been re-released with a new introduction and can be heard here.

Hafner is survived by his wife Kathleen (Kathy), two sons, two daughters and 13 grandchildren. The family plans to hold a Celebration of Life service, but details had not yet been announced as of publication time.

NAILD has created a Paul Hafner Memorial Scholarship Fund to help individuals who are unable to meet the financial investment that is required to enroll in the Lighting Specialist (LS) Program. Awards will be announced yearly. To make a donation to the fund, send a check to NAILD, 191 Clarksville Road, Princeotn Junction, NJ 08550, attn: Greta Cuyler. 

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