Public and Environmental Wellness

History of Environmental Health and Safety

Protecting people, property and the environment for 40 Years

Posters presented at the 40th anniversary celebration represented disciplines of EHS including automotive, construction, manufacturing, and transportation safety, industrial hygiene, public service, and risk management.

From left to right, Jessica Jannaman (award presenter), awardees Thomas Schenk, Patrick Frazee, Charles McGlothlin Jr, and Darryl Hill, and Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Kevin Ball.

Awards of distinction were presented to key individuals at the EHS 40th anniversary celebration and author Bob Morris was a keynote speaker.

EHS 40th anniversary presenters gathered together.

icon of a calendarJanuary 31, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Nina Googasian

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In 1970, the U.S. took a keen interest in the health and safety of labor workers, enforcing the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law. This growing concern over workplace hazards was shared with former Oakland University Board of Trustees member and United Auto Workers (UAW) leader Ken Morris, who expressed the need for a health and safety education program at Oakland University. 

Under Morris’s astute foresight, a new industrial health and safety program was established in 1979, designed for working students with evening classes offered in the lower level of Vandenberg Hall. The program began with 15 students. 

Fast forward 40 years. Today, comprised of 82 undergraduate and 11 graduate students, the program is part of the Department of Public and Environmental Wellness in OU’s School of Health Sciences. To reflect the expansion of safety standards in the industry, the program name changed to environmental health and safety (EHS) in 2015. Since it began, more than 500 students have graduated from the EHS program and its precursors. 

The 40th anniversary was observed during OU’s Homecoming and Reunion Weekend. School of Health Sciences Dean Kevin Ball, Ph.D., current and former program directors, department chairs and faculty, along with alumni and students gathered to celebrate the past, present and future of the EHS program. 

“This is an incredible milestone for the EHS program,” remarks Ball. “For four decades, we have been a strong leader in preparing graduates to be workforce-ready for careers in every occupational setting, including heavy industry, light manufacturing, service industries, health care, insurance companies, labor organizations and government service at the local, state and federal levels.”

Coming full circle, the event included an insightful keynote address by Bob Morris, Ken’s son, and author of "Built in Detroit: A Story of the UAW, a Company and a Gangster." “My father would be so proud to see how far the program has come,” says Morris. 

Presentations by industry experts, alumni and current students provided a unique glimpse into the evolution of various industries over the years and future challenges. In addition, awards were presented to several individuals who were instrumental to the growth of the EHS program. 

Discover more about the environmental health and safety program

History of Program Directors

1979-87 - Dr. Uwe Reischl

1987-97 - Dr. Sheryl Schultz

1997-98 - Dr. Stephen Hall

1998-2002 - Dr. Richard Rozek, interim director 

2002-17 - Dr. Charles McGlothlin, 2002-2017 

2017-18 - Mr. Patrick Frazee

2019 - Dr. Florence Dallo, interim director

2019-present - Dr. Thomas Schenk

EHS Program Timeline

1979Industrial Health and Safety (IHS) program established

1998IHS program relocated to Hannah Hall

2004Name changed to Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)

OSH program accredited by the American Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET)

2012OSH program moved to the new Human Health Building

2015Name changed to Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)

2019EHS celebrates 40th anniversary

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