Each year at LDI, the awards include the Wally Award. So who is this Wally anyway? The award, instituted in 1992, is named for Wally Russell, a man who inspired many. “He was an extraordinary guy,” says Richard Pilbrow of Theatre Projects Consultants, who served as the first chairman of the Wally Russell Foundation board of directors. “He had an enormous passion for ballet, opera, theatre, and lighting. He was also a hell of a businessman. He had a remarkable brain and was interested in everything from mathematics to astronomy.”

Pilbrow knew Wally Russell well, as Russell served as the president for Theatre Project's US office, after working at Strand Lighting. “He was a rock,” adds Pilbrow, adding that Russell never said anything before thinking it through. “He was tremendously down to earth.”

When Wally Russell passed away unexpectedly in 1992, Pilbrow and many other industry folks attended the funeral. “His ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of Los Angeles, as Wally was an avid sailor,” Pilbrow explains. “There were a group of us in the boat, including Phil O'Donnell, Rusty Brutsché, and Phil Bernard, among others. We all said we should do something to memorialize him.” Thus the Wally Russell Foundation was born, with its annual Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award, and a newcomer award that was presented once in 1994 and has been revived this year to become an annual honor as well.