Introducing Dr. Vernon

Dr. Ralph J. Vernon was one of the pioneers in the development of safety and industrial hygiene educational programs and curricula. He achieved a number of firsts during a remarkable career:

  • The first Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree programs in safety engineering.
  • The first Master of Science industrial hygiene program in a college of engineering in the United States.
  • The first comprehensive practitioner-based study of the academic and professional certification requirements necessary for practice in occupational safety and industrial hygiene. This research influenced the development of safety and health curricula across the United States.

Vernon was the examination consultant to the Board of Certified Safety Professionals for many years, eventually becoming a member of that board and serving as its president. He also served as president of the Academy of Industrial Hygiene, as a director on AIHA's Board of Directors, and on the National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

He began his career as a safety engineer with the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and was promoted to assignments of increasing responsibility, rising to loss prevention manager before leaving the company. During his tenure with Liberty Mutual, Vernon became convinced of the need for solid academic preparation for young professionals, particularly for those entering the safety engineering field.

Vernon joined the faculty at Texas A&M University with the specific assignment of developing baccalaureate and graduate degree programs in safety engineering and industrial hygiene in the College of Engineering. Later, he took a leave of absence from Texas A&M University to obtain a doctorate degree in preventive medicine and environmental health from the University of Iowa. Upon returning to Texas A&M, he completed the development of the industrial safety and industrial hygiene degree programs. Dr. Vernon retired as professor emeritus of industrial engineering.

He received a Bachelor of Science in industrial education, with honors, from Clemson University and a Master of Arts in education from Texas A&M University. Vernon was a Certified Industrial Hygienist, a Certified Safety Professional, a Registered Professional Engineer, and a Certified Manufacturing Engineer.

The list of honors he received during his career includes: the General Dynamics Award for Excellence in Engineering Teaching, Texas A&M University; the Educator of the Year Award, The International System Safety Society; the Service Award, Board of Certified Safety Professionals; the Henry F. Smyth Jr. Award, Academy of Industrial Hygiene; and the Borden Award, American Industrial Hygiene Association. Vernon was a member of Sigma Xi, an international honor society for scientific and engineering research.

Dr. Vernon passed in April, 2000.

Past recipients

Travis McLennon, University of Toronto
Matthew J. Purdy, University of Iowa

Trevor K. Peckham, University of Washington

​Lindsay Mahoney, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

Andrew M. Sinstadt, University of British Columbia

Kikelomo M. Akintunde, University of North Texas Health Science Center

Jason B. Cross, University of Utah

Tiffany Poole-Wilson, University of Cincinnati

Eduardo Salazar Vega, University of Texas

Miriam Koesterich, Colorado State University

Maggie J. Haverkamp, Murray State University

Leah M. Sallee, Murray State University

Coty Maypole, University of Texas

Lindsay Parker, University of Iowa