Bill Warfel, 1933 - 2017
Courtesy the Yale School of Drama website Bill Warfel, 1933 - 2017

Lighting designer Bill Warfel died May 28, 2017. He was one of the first generation of lighting designers whose work bridged between theatrical and architectural lighting design. A graduate of Yale University and the Yale School of Drama, he went on to teach at the School of Drama and become the Chairman of the Design Department. In 1971, he set up his own architectural lighting design practice in New Haven, Conn., and then in 1998, with Sara Schrager, founded Warfel Schrager Architectural Lighting, also in New Haven, Conn. In 2007, he formed a new firm William B. Warfel Lighting and Theater Design.

His contributions to the lighting profession have been highlighted in Architectural Lighting. In 2011, as part of AL’s 25th Anniversary “From the Archive” series, Bill provided a contemporary response to the article “Reality & The Art of Revealment,” originally authored by Abe Feder in the publication in 1994.

The obituary below appeared in The New Haven Register on June 1, 2017:

William "Bill" Warfel, 84, passed away on May 28 at Masonicare Acute Care Unit in Wallingford following a brief illness, with family members close by. He was born in Holyoke, MA, the son of the late Herbert E. and Lucille T. Warfel. He spent his early years in Amherst, MA and Durham, NH, and Branford, CT, before his family moved to the Philippines after WWII, where Bill graduated from the American School of the Philippines. He then went to Yale University, graduating in 1955 with a degree in theater. While there, he met his wife, Phyllis. They married the day after receiving their degrees, and then Bill went on to earn his MFA in stage lighting design at the Yale School of Drama, graduating in 1957.

Bill accepted a teaching position in the theater department at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, and later worked as a technical adviser for Century Lighting in New York, NY, during which time he worked on several projects for the New York World's Fair (1964-1965), including the special effects lighting for the iconic Unisphere. Also during this time, Bill co-founded his first architectural lighting design company, prior to accepting a teaching position at C.W. Post (LIU) in their theater department. Bill was then offered his position at the Yale School of Drama, eventually becoming Chairman of the Design Department.

During his tenure at Yale, Bill wrote two textbooks on theater lighting, which are still widely used today. Over the course of his career, Bill attended several international theatrical conventions, from London to Finland to Iceland, as well as in the United States, as an esteemed speaker and panelist. He was also invited by the Chinese government to teach a seminar in Beijing.

One of Bill's professional interests was architectural lighting. Over the years, he co-established an independent design company, which became Systems Design Associates. Upon retiring from Yale in 1993, Bill devoted much of his time to his lighting design company. Bill focused on his lighting design work on museum, performing arts spaces and churches. This focus brought him work from all over the country, to much critical acclaim.

In addition to his architectural lighting, Bill continued to support the Yale School of Music with multiple operatic productions every year in both professional and academic spaces. Throughout his career, he received awards from many professional organizations for his great contributions to the art of lighting, both theatrical and architectural.

Bill was a devout Anglican, who served in several capacities in churches throughout the area, including Christ Church Episcopal, where he was currently a member. Despite his busy schedule, he was a family man who enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren. He also enjoyed watching birds in his back yard. Aside from his wife, Phyllis, Bill is survived by daughters Arden Lowe of South Hadley, MA and Katherine Trudeau of East Hartford, grandsons Joshua and Ryan Lowe of South Hadley, Jeffrey Lowe of Holyoke, MA, as well as granddaughter Melissa Trudeau of East Hartford, and three great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Christ Church New Haven, Saturday, June 3 at 2:30. There are no calling hours. Bill's family would like to extend their deepest gratitude for the outstanding staff at Masonicare, who, through their compassion and skilled expertise, made his final days comfortable and free of pain. In lieu of flowers, the family wishes memorial donations to be directed to: 1) Christ Church New Haven, 84 Broadway, New Haven, CT 06511 or online at and type Bill Warfel in the notes Or 2) International Festival of Arts and Ideas by calling/emailing Patrick J Dunn 203.498.3704 or J [email protected] or online at and type Bill Warfel in the notes section. To sign the online guestbook please visit