Obituary - Bernard Falk

IEC Past President Bernard H. (Bernie) Falk

By Claire Marchand

IEC Past President Bernard H. (Bernie) Falk passed away on 16 September 2013 at the age of 87.

Bernard H. (Bernie) Falk Bernard H. (Bernie) Falk

Bernie Falk was President of the IEC for the period 1996-1998. Elected in October 1994 at the IEC General Meeting in Nice, France, he first served as President-Elect in 1995 and, upon completion of his three-year term as President, as Immediate Past President in 1999 and 2000.

A lasting influence

During those six years at the IEC, Bernie Falk vigorously supported the restructuring and modernizing of the IEC. He pursued the creation of Sector Boards to enhance contacts with industry and ensure that the IEC performed in a professional and business-like manner. He proposed the establishment of a Council Board, to help speed up the decision-making process and suggested replacing the Management Board with an enlarged Executive Committee, comprising all IEC Officers, including the Vice-Presidents. These new structures injected dynamism into the Commission.

Meeting future challenges

In the Manifesto he wrote to support his candidacy for the IEC Presidency, Bernie Falk explained his vision for the future of the IEC and the challenges that needed to be tackled, i.e. "to produce timely, quality-driven standards that reflect favourably on customer needs […] and to develop an effective conformity assessment system, one that will ultimately provide for ‘one-stop testing’ of products that can be readily accepted in the world’s marketplace."

He concluded by saying that this could "only be accomplished if IEC leadership, membership and staff are more than ready, willing and able to deal successfully with CHANGE […] not for change’s sake, but to keep pace with, and hopefully stay ahead of, a rapidly changing electrotechnical world".

A life-long involvement in standardization and trade issues

A New Yorker by birth, Bernie Falk completed his Electrical Engineering Degree at New York City College after which he attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.

In 1956, Falk joined NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) as an Executive Secretary in the Section Operations Department. In 1967, he was elected Vice-President of Government and Membership Services, and in that position, assumed responsibility for NEMA’s increasing relations with the Federal Government as well as membership promotion and maintenance.

Shuttling between NEMA’s headquarters in New York and Washington DC, Falk concentrated on legislation relating to product regulation and international trade. He prepared and coordinated industry position papers, testified regularly before Congress and other government agencies and developed for NEMA a programme for improving day-to-day relationships with executive government agencies.

During Falk’s tenure as Vice-President, NEMA membership grew to an all-time high.

National and international recognition

Falk was elected President of NEMA in 1972, a position he retained until his retirement in 1991. He was also active in a number of related organizations, business groups and on federal advisory boards. He was an Officer of the Board of, among others, the US Chamber of Commerce and ANSI (American National Standards Institute).

Within ANSI, he was Chairman of the Organization Member Council and of the Board’s Committee on Conformity Assessment. In this capacity he led the dialogue on testing and certification issues with European counterparts as a member of ANSI-sponsored US delegations to Brussels, Belgium.

For a number of years in the 1980s and 1990s, as Chairman and member of the US Government ISAC 2 (Industry Sector Advisory Committee on Capital Goods), he represented the electrical manufacturing industry’s views to US trade negotiators.

Falk was a member of the US Department of Commerce Federal Advisory Committee on Europe 1992. He frequently attended, as an invited guest, the annual meetings of Orgalime, the European federation representing the interests at the level of the EU institutions of the European mechanical, electrical, electronic and metal articles industries as a whole, to express US industry views on international trade issues.

Falk also served on the Board of Trustees of UL (Underwriters Laboratories) Inc.


Falk was the recipient of many awards. In 1991 he received the ANSI Howard Coonley Medal, given to executives who render great service to the national economy through voluntary standardization.

NEMA, where he is remembered as an innovator and pioneer whose work helped shape the future and make the Association what it is today, named its highest award in his honour.