“This is obviously a special moment that will remain with me for the rest of my life,” said Zia Eftekhar, CEO of Philips Professional Luminaires North America, a division of global giant Royal Philips Electronics. A 40-year veteran of the lighting industry, Eftekhar has headed such illustrious companies as The Genlyte Group and Lightolier.
“I am honored to be included with the legends inducted in the Hall of Fame,” Eftekhar stated in his acceptance speech at a ceremony during the 2011 annual American Lighting Association (ALA) Conference in Palm Beach, Fla. last week. “I sincerely thank all of you who allowed me to play a role in this great organization of ours,” Eftekhar noted. “Most appropriately, I want to thank my beautiful and kind wife and my daughter, who have understood what my demanding job has required. When I decided to stay on at Philips [after Philips acquired The Genlyte Group in 2008], Denys supported me.”
Eftekhar admitted that he hadn’t intended to make lighting his career. “I had finished four years of [college] and was going for my graduate degree,” he explained. “I needed a flexible job,” he said of his first job at Lightolier four decades ago. “I thought I’d leave this industry as soon as I graduated, but I’m still here.”
Along the way, the lighting industry grew on Eftekhar. “Lighting is fantastic! There’s nothing we do that isn’t touched by lighting in some way. It’s an art and a science,” he noted. “Every day, people around the world are touched by what we do.”
The official lighting organization has undergone several incarnations over the years. Eftekhar remarked that Lightolier was one of the founding members of the home lighting association in the 1950s. “All of us should be proud of the changes our association — as ALA — has brought about,” he said. “Today, the ALA has become an extremely integral part of what will take our industry forward,” he added. “I still feel the same amount of enthusiasm for what our association can deliver, and I believe that by working together, we can deliver it.”
Eftekhar mused, “There are a lot of fantastic things that we take for granted. As I look back at my life, the most consequential decision I ever made was 40 years ago, when I became an American. My decision wasn’t made out of necessity, but because of the emotional feeling it represents. As an American, we can dream as high as we want. We are free to achieve, and we are free to choose — this is probably the most precious value that we have,” he concluded.