Coopersburg, Pa.-based resident Ruth Rodale Spira, Co-Founder and Co-Chairwoman of Lutron Electronics, died August 31 in Allentown, Pa., at the age of 90. Ruth was pre-deceased by her husband of 60 years, Lutron Chairman, Co-Founder & Director of Research, Joel Spira, in 2015.
Born on December 9, 1928, to J.I. and Anna (Andrews) Rodale, Ruth earned a bachelor’s degree in Botany from Wellesley College and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Muhlenberg College. Following her graduation, she joined Rodale Press which was founded by her parents. In time, she became Editor of the periodical Organic Gardening & Farming and saved up her money for a trip of a lifetime. Always adventurous, Ruth traveled to Paris at age 26 in the 1950s as a single woman, which was almost unheard of at the time. During her trip, she became fluent in French and developed a love of French and Asian food. Upon her return, she settled in New York City and became a researcher for an encyclopedia company. Soon after, she met her husband, Joel, and together they enjoyed their life in New York City. Ruth continued her love of Chinese and European food and would host many dinner parties for family and friends.
Joel and Ruth started Lutron in the spare bedroom of their Upper West Side apartment. Together, they grew Lutron from a local Coopersburg, Pa.-based entrepreneurial business that sold two products to the global leader in lighting and shading controls.
In the early days, Ruth was hand- on in the quality control area, making sure all products were properly tested. As a leader in more and more areas of the company, she always advocated for the highest quality in both product and communications.
Considered to be the cornerstone of the company, Ruth created and implemented Lutron’s familial culture of inclusiveness and community, welcoming everyone through the door as family. Today, nearly 60 years later, this warm culture is the hallmark of Lutron.
Ruth’s impact on the company could be felt worldwide. She established Lutron’s Marketing Communications department in 1982 and went on to develop much of Lutron’s marketing materials used throughout the world. She took great pride in mentoring many people around the globe and welcoming them into the Lutron family. She also took great pride in, and was very active in, giving back to the local community. For decades, she was active with numerous organizations, including the Allentown Art Museum, the Allentown Arts Commission, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and the Lehigh Valley Wellesley College Group. She had served as a trustee for Cedar Crest College and as a board member for the DeSales University Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. She was also an active member of Lutron’s Advisory Council. In addition, Ruth co-founded Subarashii Kudamono (Japanese translation: Wonderful Fruit), a Lehigh Valley-based grower and producer of Asian pears. Subarashii Kudamono pears and pear products are sold nationally to restaurants, corporate programs, and online.
Ruth loved her family and upheld numerous traditions including Wednesday movie night with Joel. With a passion for international food and travel, Ruth was a woman ahead of her times and introduced Joel to new cultures and new ideas. She had a passion for cooking and published Naturally Chinese: Healthful Cooking for China in 1977 to offer a healthy approach to preparing Chinese food.