IIAR Remembers: Jim Wright

A longtime member of IIAR, two-term board member, friend and mentor to many in industrial refrigeration, Jim Wright was known for his tireless passion for a job well done, and his warm, generous spirit, which he shared freely with friends and colleagues.

Highly regarded in the industry, Wright’s friends and colleagues say he was one of the most well-respected engineers in the field, and that his passing will leave a noticeable absence, both at the industry level and individually in the hearts and minds of many.

“He was always a pleasant guy – you could tell he was one of the best engineers in our industry and always knew what he was talking about. He was an excellent knowledge base,” said Dave Rule, president of IIAR and longtime friend. “He was passionate about his work, but he also cared about the people he was working with.”

Wright ran a successful consulting engineering business, Wright Engineering Associates, for over two decades and was widely considered one of the premier thought leaders in the refrigeration industry, but friends say it was his attitude and work ethic that set him apart. “Aside from his refrigeration knowledge, he was known for his honesty and integrity,” Rule said. “He always presented a positive attitude in everything he did. He always had a smile, he was always very friendly, and always trying to help.”

Doug Scott, a colleague and friend who worked with Wright for decades, said Wright will be remembered as one of the leading industrial refrigeration consulting engineers in the country. “He was collaborative, he was considerate, he was inclusive. He was resolute that work should be done right, with a fairness to everyone involved. He had a tremendous amount of integrity.”

Scott adds that Wright was a life-long learner and was excited to find new solutions to complex problems. “There were challenges in the most recent projects I worked on with him that required doing things that had never been done before,” he said, “but he could think through it and come up with the best solution for the challenge.”

Ted Styskel, another long-term friend and colleague, agrees that by every measure Wright was one of the most innovative members of the industry. “He was an excellent engineer and a great mentor to so many people. He was a rare individual who was so open to sharing all of his knowledge and resources. He was really highly thought of by so many people.”

Styskel said what really stood out about Wright was his ability to communicate and collaborate. He had the ability to pull people together and bring out the best in them, not only in his professional life but in his personal life, too. “He had a real gift for bringing people along and encouraging them,” Styskel says. “To me, he was an incredible mentor; I learned so much from him and he will be greatly missed.”

Wright worked on a number of different committees in IIAR and was extremely supportive of the organization. “He was always willing to help; you could always count on him to provide strong knowledge and good advice,” said Rule. “It was a real privilege to know him. I was honored to work with him. I considered him a friend to the industry as well as a personal friend.”

Adolfo Blasquez, who worked with Wright for nearly 40 years professionally and served with Wright in various capacities at IIAR over the years said he’ll miss Wright for his sense of humor, his work ethic, and his way with people. “He was a true professional and a true friend,” he says. “For myself and so many others in this business, I can tell you without any doubt, Jim Wright will truly be missed.”

Although Wright knew he was ill, he still attended the IIAR conference in Colorado Springs. Rule says he used this opportunity to visit with his friends and colleagues – those who he worked with and knew so well for so long – one last time. Although he knew the conference was one of many “lasts” for him, Wright approached it with his characteristic positivity and reflected an inner peace and acceptance.

“Even knowing how sick he was, he still made the effort to travel to the conference just to say goodbye to everyone,” Rule said. “That’s really impressive to me that he’d do that. He just wanted to share that time with all his friends.”

While Wright was passionately dedicated to his career, many would say his faith in God was his strongest conviction. He regularly attended the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, Calif., and his strong moral center rooted in his beliefs guided everything he did, both personally and professionally. “You could tell his inspiration came from his strong faith,” said Rule.

Andrea Collins, Condenser editor and friend, agrees Wright’s faith inspired everyone he knew. “The amazing thing about Jim was that he had this rock-solid faith – uncommon faith – Christian evangelism was a big part of his life,” Collins said. “His passion for his life and his work was contagious.”

Wright will certainly be remembered for his contributions to the industry, but more than that, he will be remembered as a genuine, compassionate man who cared deeply about his relationships, his family and his religion. “You walked out of his office feeling better than when you went in,” Rule said. “That’s the kind of man he was.”