Introducing Dr. Smith
Dr. Ralph G. Smith was Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Industrial Health at the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, when he passed away in 1996. Born in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, Smith became a U.S. citizen in 1940. He received his BS in Chemistry from Wayne State University in 1942 and then served until 1946 as a meteorologist in the U.S. Air Force, rising from a private to the rank of captain. He received a MS in Analytical Chemistry in 1949 and a PhD in Chemistry in 1953, both from Wayne State University. Smith led the Michigan Industrial Hygiene Society in the 1950s, an anchor in the early formalization of our profession.
In 1955, Smith was appointed associate professor, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Medicine, at Wayne State. He became professor and Assistant Chair of the department in 1963 and Acting Chair in 1967. He hosted, while at Wayne State, an annual “Toxicology Workshop,” popular with professionals from universities, private industry, and government. Smith then joined the University of Michigan as professor of environmental and industrial health in 1970 and retired 15 years later. The excellence of his teaching is shown through the success of his students. Smith continued to initiate programs that helped the working student. For example, while at the University of Michigan, he launched an on-job/on-campus program where students could come to Ann Arbor for a long weekend, once a month, and meet the academic requirements for a master's degree without giving up their daily jobs.
Smith had a deep interest in education, with a particular dedication to students. His able leadership was an important factor in the evolution of the school's industrial hygiene program into one of the most outstanding in the country. He gave generously of himself and contributed greatly to the maintenance and growth of the University of Michigan’s excellent reputation in this field.
Smith was also an active part-time consultant in occupational and environmental health; his research focused on the general problems of air sampling and analysis, biological sampling and analysis, and occupational exposure to substances such as beryllium, lead, carbon black, mercury, and chlorine. These consulting activities blended with his research interests and produced a steady flow of research funded by government and industry alike. All segments of the profession and society could rely on his high quality research — focused and scientifically excellent. In turn, this research served as fertile ground for the growth of his many graduate students.
Throughout his career, Smith was active in numerous professional societies, authored more than 120 scientific papers, and contributed to numerous books. In addition, he took it upon himself to publish abstracts of American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal articles to enable industrial hygiene’s greater exposure outside our profession. He served as president of the Association in 1982 and received thecoveted Donald E. Cummings Award in 1985. He also served as president of the Smelter Environmental Research Association (SERA).
Many leaders in the profession benefited from Dr. Smith’s conservative, gentle wisdom, blended with his unique sense of humor that made you remember the time you spent with him and the knowledge he imparted. While legendary in his professional contributions, Smith is perhaps best remembered for his quick wit and playfulness, his thoughtfulness and unfailing integrity, and his consistently applied generosity to everyone with whom he interacted. He was a generous mentor to many and this scholarship is one way to honor his contributions to our profession.
Sophia M. Ridl, University of Michigan
Andrea L. Guytingco, University of Michigan
Benjamin K. Moore, University of Michigan
Taylor A. Tarpey, University of Michigan
Lauren Kokx, University of Michigan
Stephanie K. Sayler, University of Michigan
Walter A. Askent, University of Michigan
Emily A. Yu, University of Michigan
Kendra R. Broadwater, University of Michigan
Mary Ellen Hicks, University of Michigan
Vivek Patel, University of Michigan
Bufford A. Ang, University of Michigan
Wendy Guo, University of Michigan
Pamela Dopart, University of Michigan
Ryann Fisher, University of Michigan
Matthew Johnson, University of Michigan
Joshua Bennett, University of Michigan
Marissa Vieno, University of Michigan
Lynn Zwica, University of Michigan
Sonja Rawie, University of Michigan
Shanna Schmiesing, University of Michigan
Carrie Ziehl, University of Michigan
Therese H. Franco, University of Michigan
Andrea F. Sevier, University of Michigan