September 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - February 2003

2002-2003 ASSE President Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP, CPE

Awards: Nominate a Deserving Member

ASSE's awards and honors will be determined soon, so I must ask, Have you nominated someone yet? We miss so many opportunities to recognize our own. ASSE has many awards: student awards, chapter awards, the Scrivener Award, Professional Paper Awards, various safety professional of the year awards, the Culbertson Award and the Fellow, our highest honor. We should be nominating deserving professionals for each of these awards.

My passion about awards is based on my experience with the Fellow Award. Many years ago, while a member of the Pikes Peak Chapter, I noticed that two chapter members had the credentials to be nominated for the Fellow Award. Believing both were deserving of the honor, I garnered support from several chapter members and began the nomination process. Ultimately, both received the award. What a gratifying experience it was to see their career achievements recognized. I wonder how many fellows out there have yet to be recognized.

The Society benefits greatly when these safety leaders are honored. By nominating deserving candidates you help to honor those who have made groundbreaking contributions to safety and ASSE. Many of us are able to do what we do because these pioneers stood strong for what was right and often in years past, doing so meant you lost your seat.

Today, we often have abundant data and research to support our hypotheses. Back then, they didn't even have textbooks. In fact, many of them contributed to the textbooks we studied. They started with a blank slate where we now merely modify what is already written. Safety is a growing, popular profession, but these pioneers did safety before it was cool. Seeing deserving professionals become fellows is like watching children open gifts. As they walk across the stage at the annual PDC, they finally get their day in the sun recognition that all their sacrifices made a difference. They join the profession's elite.

I ask each of you to help us recognize them. You will be better for it and it will stay with you for the rest of your life. Find a deserving Fellow recipient and work with that person through the nomination process. If every ASSE region were to nominate just one candidate, that would be eight nominations and potentially eight new fellows each year. Help us recognize these deserving professionals. It's a great contribution to the Society.

Starting below and continuing on pg. 56 is the a speech I gave at the Past Presidents and Fellows Dinner after George Huber was named a Fellow. I was the petition coordinator. You will see the contribution he made to ASSE.

A Time of Reflection About a Mentor: George & Theo Huber

There we sat a cluster of a few in the lobby of the Red Lion Inn in Colorado Springs. A dimly lit candle burned at the center of our table, flickering gently, casting enough light to see everyone. His wife always by his side. One person spoke, the rest listened. Sometimes we listened intently to stories we had heard long before, but the delivery was still wonderful. Every question was handled with grace, humility and strength. Every answer was drawn from deep wells of experience and wisdom, shaped by tough decisions, nurtured by time and seasoned by working in several industries. A healthy dose of pain, mistakes and mistreatment was interspersed in each answer. His life, honed by tests, trials, tribulations, risks, heartbreaks and, in some cases, failures. But like the best wines, it was the decades in the same crucible that made his counsel invaluable. Had those years been spent in the military, he would have had a chest full of medals. His age? Eighty-seven. His face? Rugged as 50 miles of Colorado mountain roads in the winter with black ice. His eyes were the windows to his soul and able to pierce any facade eyeball-to-eyeball. He had seen it all, weathered it all. He had set many programs in motion so that our generation could be raised to the next level. He had no books, no standards (he developed the first versions!). He was a lone light in the darkness shining brightly to anyone who could see. He outlasted the fads, the gimmicks, the fly-by-night theories, the gullible and greedy generations. He had paid his dues and he had the battle scars to prove it. This is not to say, however, that he was over the hill. Or to even intimate that he had lost his zest for living. After all, he is still invited to perform as Cactus Jack throughout the west with his rope-spinning act. His ability to articulate his thoughts cogently and his humor were still going strong. There we sat, listening to stories, pondering his principles, questioning his conclusions and responding to his ideas. The discussion was punctuated with periodic outbursts of laughter and protracted periods of quiet talk and solemn silence.

As I participated, I was suddenly 25 years old again. A young, overzealous and sometimes arrogant safety engineer, with a heart full of desire and a head full of dreams and aspirations. Long on theory and short on experience. I had answers to questions no one was asking but a lack of understanding on the things that really mattered. In a momentary flashback, I saw myself in a room with a man 46 years my senior. Here I was drinking from the same well, soaking up his experience. They just don't teach that in school. Hey! They don't teach that anywhere. Back then I was merely impressed . . . but this time I was deeply moved. Years ago he was a model to achieve. Today he is a mentor, thoroughly human, absolutely authentic and clearly genuine. In the day of tarnished leaders, fallen heroes, busy parents, frantic coaches, arrogant authority figures and egghead geniuses, we need mentors more than ever. We need guides, not pontificating arrogance. We need approachable, caring souls who can help us negotiate the labyrinth of our career. We need mentors whispering hope and reproofs through our journey toward excellence. We need mentors who can stretch us without insulting us, affirm us without flattering us, release us without abandoning us.

As we said goodbye, I walked a little slower, I thought about things he had taught me without directly instructing me, about the courage he had given me without deliberately exhorting me. I guess it was by some form of osmosis. Just being around him made a difference. I wondered how it happened. I wondered how I was so privileged.

A nostalgic knot formed in my throat as I forced myself to realize that at age 87, he didn't have many more years left in this world. I found myself wanting to run back and tell him again how much I admired him. But, it was late, and after all, I was a 41-year-old man. A husband to my wife, a father to my daughter, a safety professional to my company and a leader to some. But as I stood there, I suddenly realized what I want to be when I grow up.

Many of us are able to do what we do because these pioneers stood strong for what was right.

Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP, CPE