Early History of the EHS Degree Program at the University of Findlay (1985 – 1995)

The intent of this document is to capture the important aspects of the “Early History”, as well as acknowledge the key people involved in the development and initiation of the Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) programs, and the hands-on training component – the All Hazards Training Center, at the University of Findlay.

While Randy Van Dyne is the primary author of this article, many contributions were made by 11 others who had direct knowledge of and/or participated in the all the important decisions that helped pave the way for the rollout of these three unique and extremely successful programs (see the last page for list of contributors). These programs continue to educate and train people to deal with EHS issues that are so important in today’s society.


The Original Idea

In the spring of 1985, Dean McBride (former Dean of Academic Affairs at Findlay College (FC)) showed Luke Bartolomeo, the Department Chair of Natural Science Division, a newspaper article which told about OHM Materials Corporation (OHM) of Findlay, working with Muskingum Technical College (located in Zanesville, Ohio) on some EHS Education and Training Programs. Dean McBride suggested that FC could provide the same service, and he encouraged Luke to contact OHM, since he knew the owners, as well as Randy Van Dyne, who previously taught at FC before becoming a Marketing Specialist at OHM.

OHM was one of the nation’s most reputable Environmental Remediation and Emergency Response Companies owned and operated by the Kirk Family (Kirk Brothers). At that time, Environmental Remediation and Emergency Response was a rapidly growing industry in the United States, created to help deal with major chemical spills on the nation’s highways and railways, as well as clean up old chemical storage dumps and buried drum sites which resulted from years of uncontrolled chemical disposal and related environmental issues.


Getting the Right People Together and Putting Things in Motion

Luke knew Randy personally, as they both joined FC in the fall of 1976 as faculty members – Luke in the Science Department, and Randy in the Business Department. Randy left FC in 1978, and Luke had become chair. Luke suggested to Randy that with the rapid growth of the Remediation and Response Industry and OHM, FC could develop academic programs (maybe even specific majors) that would prepare students to work for OHM, and Randy completely agreed.

Luke gathered several key people from FC including Ed Erner FC’s Dean of Academic Affairs. Dr. Ken Zirkle, FC’s President at the time, was also a major driving force in making the degree a reality not only at the beginning, but also through the development, start-up, and operational phases as well. Board of Trustee Members Jack Harrington and Pat Rooney were also huge supporters. According to Dr. Zirkle, Luke played a critical role from the beginning! He was the behind the scenes hero!

Randy gathered a few key people at OHM, including Dr. Fred Halvorsen, Vice President of Safety, and Dr. Tom Gran, Vice President of Analytical Labs. This group began meeting, added a few other players, and eventually were successful in developing the nations’ first bachelor’s degree in this field – called the Hazardous Waste Studies Program.

Perhaps the most critical decision was to design the major from an industry, practical application perspective, and NOT as a typical academic program. This led to virtually all classes being designed with a hands-on approach to demonstrate how the classroom content related to “real world” situations and solutions.

The first class was taught by Randy and Bruce Allen (also an OHM employee) in the fall of 1986 in the Geology classroom in Brewer, which is now the Education and Resource Center (Brewer 115). Since no textbooks were available for the emerging topic, the class was taught primarily through as a series of guest speakers – some from industries (like Marathon), some from contractors/suppliers (like OHM), and some from regulatory agencies (like Ohio EPA). There were six students in the initial class.


Getting Started – The National Advisory Board

Although the degree program started with the intention of graduates all working for OHM, it soon became apparent they could work for any company dealing with EHS issues at any level. To ensure the program was properly aligned with the entire industry, a National Advisory Board was created. This was done to ensure the degree programs were applicable to the requirements of all related chemical, manufacturing, regulatory, response and contractor/vendor entities. Members of the board were chemists, engineers, lawyers, health and safety professionals, and others. Key members were Dr. Fred Halvorsen and Dr. Tom Gran from OHM, as well as Jim Jaffe from the Environmental Law field and Steve Nash, who was in charge of Hazardous Material Transportation with Eli Lilly. OHM, and the Kirk Family, also became involved in various aspects of the effort, including a significant financial gift to FC.

Luke hired Captain John Hosty as the first chair of the Environmental and Hazardous Materials Management (EHMM) program in 1987. Captain Hosty had experience operating EHS training and education programs in Canada. Luke’s goal was to develop a lab component analogous to the sciences, and to enhance the lecture portion of the curriculum, but Captain Hosty took a different approach. He convinced Dr. Zirkle and the administration that FC could develop a for profit enterprise by developing and offering training programs to people already in the industry. This was the start the “for profit” Training Center concept. Additionally, property west of Findlay was considered as a possible site for a hands-on training center, but that never materialized. Captain Hosty’s tenure was short, and he returned to Canada in mid-1988 for personal reasons.


The Importance of Adjunct Faculty

In the first few years of the program FC was extremely successful in recruiting students but the administration was reluctant to hire highly qualified faculty. FC was only able to hire experts in the field after the program proved to be successful. It was Luke who created the first curriculum, which was mostly based on available courses such as chemistry and some biology, intermixed with EHMM courses taught strictly by adjuncts. After a professional faculty was hired, the curriculum was revised to represent the field.

Another critical development was the cooperative relationship FC entered with Owens Community College, whereby FC offered all general education courses to Owen’s two-year EHMM major. The money generated from this relationship allowed FC to hire the professionals needed in the program.

Greg Githens and Jeff Fort were two of the key early contributors who helped provide a real world perspective to the program. The two were critical to the overall start-up effort in the late 80s, and early 90s. Greg worked at OHM and had a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from Miami University, which gave him insight into the organization of environmental degree programs. One topic of discussion at an early meeting was the unique perspective of the college in trying to introduce students to the topic early instead of expecting typical sciences prerequisites like chemistry and biology.

Jeff was an Environmental Attorney at Marathon Oil and worked on the initial development of the academic program. He wrote subject matter material for both, Hazardous Waste Management (RCRA and CERCLA) and other related subjects (DOT, OSHA and legal principles generally). Jeff was the first to teach Environmental Laws and Regulations in the bachelor degree program and later the first to teach Environmental Policy in the Master Degree Program. Jeff’s role was later turned over to full-time faculty. He then became a key Environmental Regulations trainer for the AHTC.


Full Time Faculty with Real World Experience

The first faculty member hired was Dan Hehr (1988). In fact, Dan was the driving force behind the relationship between OHM and Muskingum Tech, but the University had the foresight to hire him at Findlay. Dan played an important role in developing the Academic Program, but his major contributions would be to the All Hazards Training Center. Unfortunately, Dan passed away in 2012. The Dan Hehr Memorial Training Floor in Renninger Gym was named in 2012 to honor Dan’s contributions.

As the program rapidly grew in the late 80s and early 90s, a number of additional full-time faculty members were recruited to join the effort – including Mike Homsher (1990), a chemist from the National Sanitation Foundation; Gordon Gillespie in (1991); an environmental health officer from the US Army Medical Corps; Dan May (1991), an academic geologist converted to environmental hydrologist; Grant Wilkinson (1993), an attorney from the Ohio EPA; and Bill Carter (1995), an industrial hygienist with broad industry experience. An eclectic group, all committed to the interdisciplinary nature of the program.


Recruiting Students, Summer Jobs, and Summer Interns

Another key individual, critical to the early stages of growth of the program was Mike Momany. Mike had worked for the FC Admissions Office, but in 1987, was assigned by Dr. Zirkle to work as a focused recruiter for the new Hazardous Waste Studies major. When Randy came on board full time in 1988, Mike worked directly for Randy, and they jointly worked on promoting both the Academic program and the newly developed Training Center. In those early years, Mike was responsible for routinely recruiting Freshman classes that totaled 70 to 75 students per year. Many of the Alums who graduated in the early 90’s through the early 2000’s will readily tell you how important Mike was in their decision to come to Findlay.

Mike also helped start the EHS “summer job” program at UF, whereby students would qualify to take on summer jobs with OHM and other similar contractors, regulators, and industry members. To qualify for the jobs, and meet OSHA safety requirements, the students had to take several safety related classes, including 40 Hour OSHA, and an Annual OSHA refresher. These courses were offered at the All Hazards Training Center, but also qualified for academic credit and were degree requirements as well. These jobs provided great opportunities for numerous students to learn more about the EHS industry while making an excellent wage for the summer. Gordon Gillespie, who had a major impact with curriculum development for the entire major, was also instrumental in expanding the summer job program to more of an official summer internship program. As the program grew, participating in at least one internship became a graduation requirement.


The First Graduate

Jennifer Cromwell, was the first official graduate of the program in 1989. Jennifer’s stepfather worked at OHM, so she was certainly aware of the many future opportunities the degree program could offer. Jennifer was also one of those initial six students in the first class in the Fall of 1986.


Changing Program Names as the Profession Grew and Matured

The degree program changed its name several times to meet industry trends and opportunities emerging more broadly in environmental and related health and safety fields. From a starting title as the Hazardous Materials Management program (HMMP), it morphed into Environmental and Hazardous Materials Management (EHMM) before settling in as the Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) degree. Along the way it received professional accreditation from both NEHA (National Environmental Health Association) and ABET (accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) – allowing graduates the opportunity to pursue Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) or Certified Safety Professional (CSP) credentials.

Another interesting point – Luke stated that the development and growth of the EHMM program was fundamental in the growth of UF’s Natural Science Division and eventually the College of Science. The funds generated by this program were the seed money that gave FC/UF the opportunity to develop the more expensive health professional programs later in the early 2000’s.


The Importance Federal Appropriations and Federal Grants

Federal Grant Funding also had a significant impact on the program via the receipt of approximately $7.5 Million in Federal Appropriations and Government Grants during the early 1990s and 2000s. Federal House of Representatives Member Mike Oxley, from Findlay, was the key to making this a reality. His overall support was outstanding! Grant funds were used to build out the entire second floor on the east end of Croy Gym. This primarily provided office and classroom space for the training center program. Grant money also helped extend an existing but much smaller building at the Fostoria Avenue Training site by adding a large classroom and a hands-on training area, as well as to expand the parking lot. Grant funds were also used to develop programs and hire key staff members.

Randy continued to work on federal grant opportunities, even after Rep. Oxley departed Washington. Randy estimated that during his 30 plus years with the program he made nearly 100 trips to Washington, DC. Many of these efforts led to Federal Funding from agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Department of Transportation, many of which are annual grants still in existence today.

Rep. Oxley, a former FBI agent, also made it possible for Randy to participate in a Threat Assessment Management Course offered by the U.S. Secret Service in September of 2002. Rep. Oxley certainly pulled a few strings, as Randy was the only non-law enforcement person in the class. What Randy learned during that week of training was used to begin the development of the School Safety and Security Series of classes that UF started offering around the entire country in 2006 under a Federal Grant for a program called the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium.


Measuring Success

As a result of all these efforts, the academic program has continued to improve and expanded over the last 36 years, graduating more than 2,500 students, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Since the program’s inception, 100 percent of the graduates have been placed in EHS related fields every year. A remarkable record!


The All Hazards Training Center

In 1989, UF opened the Emergency Response Training Center (ERTC), later renamed to the All Hazards Training Center (AHTC). This was a dedicated hands-on training endeavor that added to the educational value and experience level of the students, as well as providing necessary training to people already in the EHS field. As mentioned earlier, Captain John Hosty developed the original Training Center concept, but Randy Van Dyne came over full time from OHM in late 1988 to make the Training Center a reality, and to also assist with the promotion of the Academic Programs.

As mentioned earlier, Dan Hehr, was critical to the early success of the Training Center. Many qualified Consultants and adjunct trainers were also heavily utilized. This began the practice of matching the requirements of a specific training effort, or assignment, to the qualifications and abilities of the selected trainer(s). The AHTC has never assigned trainers to jobs that were not known experts in the field they were conducting training in. Another key figure was Dee Dee Spraw, who worked at the AHTC as the Office Manager, from 1989 to 2001. Dee was the person that provided the glue that held everything together!

As the Training Center grew, more key people such as Kevin Smith (1995) and John Kayser (1999) joined the group. John and Kevin both obtained their Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in EHS from UF. John is currently an Operations Manager, while Kevin works with clients and potential clients, to help design training programs that fit their exact needs. Kevin is also the UF Campus Safety Officer. Jeff McGuire came on board in 1999 as an Operations Manager, and Lead Project Manager. Jeff then took over for Randy as the Executive Director of the AHTC in 2018. Jeff is the reason the AHTC gets repeat business, as he assures the training is conducted correctly and meets all the client’s requirements. Laura Hoehne began working in 2004 as a key Project Manager for large scale Federal and Private Sector Clients, as well as a Technical Editor. Dave Copus (2010) a former Findlay Firefighter, is John Kayser’s assistant, and also helps run the Fostoria Avenue Training Facility. Carla Dee (2000) became the new glue that holds the ship together after Dee left. Ronda Stoneburner (2010) started in 2010 as the Training Manual Coordinator – a critical position to make sure that all manuals and other related training material get to the right client at the right location, in time for the delivery of an off-site class. There were/are many key contract trainers including Bill Brobst, Jeff Hilty, Tyler Pendleton, Jack Bender, Scott Lowry, and Bill Thomas, to name only a few. Contract Tech Editors such as Andrea Curtis (2010) were/are definitely critical to the overall success of the operation.

Initially the Training Center was located in Renninger Gym, a facility that, was under the control of the Athletic Department. The original deal was that the Training Center could remain in Renninger for two to three years before it had to move. Bottom line, because of its success, it is still in Renninger Gym today – 33 years after it began operating. A large Confined Space Entry and Rescue scenario, as well as basic Hazardous Waste Worker Safety and Health training is the focus of this facility.

In 1989, UF purchased a five-acre site located on Fostoria Avenue in Findlay, from the Humane Society. The hands-on, “off-site” training center houses rail cars, tank trucks, ditch/stream spill scenarios, above ground tanks, buried drums and other realistic training scenarios. It is still in operation as well; however, and interestingly, the vast majority of the training that the AHTC conducts is customized and offered directly at the clients’ location – anywhere is the U.S. The ability to custom design courses and offers them at the client’s location has always been one of the AHTC’s keys to success.

Major clients include Private Sector firms such as PepsiCo, Honda, Marathon, and BASF to name a few. Major grants are routinely received from the Federal Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security. Support from the Department of Homeland Security Grant has resulted in the creation of the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium. UF works with five other colleges and universities to offer courses to rural communities across the U.S. Courses that UF offers includes, school safety and security, rail car response, maritime security and pipeline security. Other courses routinely taught by UF include the more traditional worker safety, emergency response, confined space entry and rescue and other related programs.

The AHTC still thrives today, having trained nearly 300,000 people across the U.S., and several foreign countries. Virtually every year, the AHTC trains approximately 10,000 people and conducts training – primarily right at the client’s facility – in all 50 states.


The Masters Degree in Environmental, Safety and Health Management

In 1994, a Master’s Degree program in EHS was also added. Ken Brown was hired in 1993, as the first Director, and he made immediate strides to set the program in motion. Also, in 1993, Grant Wilkinson was hired as the first faculty member in the Masters Program. Grant developed and taught graduate courses in Environmental Policy and Communications, Environmental Law and Permitting, Accounting and Financial Management, and Brownfields Laws and Regulation.

In the early stages, the Master’s Degree was offered at multiple offsite locations, including the Davis Besse Nuclear Site in Oak Harbor, Ohio; Stark State Community College in Canton, Ohio; Cuyahoga County Community College in Cleveland, Ohio; Battelle Memorial Institute’s corporate offices in Columbus, Ohio; Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio; the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Sciences (IAMS) in Cincinnati, Ohio; the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio (Piketon), and the Feed Materials Production Center in Fernald, Ohio (Fernald).

The Piketon and Fernald sites were especially interesting as they were undergoing remediation and being decommissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy at that time. Existing employees needed new and improved knowledge and skills in order to seamlessly transition into new employment when the facilities eventually shut their doors. All of the satellite locations mentioned above were based on open enrollment of interested students, except for the Piketon and Fernald sites. Courses at the Piketon and Fernald sites were only offered to Piketon and Fernald employees.

One interesting aspect about the Fernald based program is that UF and Ohio State University were each asked to present proposals on how soon they could offer a full-fledged master’s Degree right at the Fernald Facility. Ohio State estimated it would take nine months to start a program. UF committed to starting it within 30 days! Guess who won the award?

About a year after launching the Master’s Degree, a two-year bachelor’s degree completion program was launched at these same sites for individuals holding an AA or AAS degree, and seeking to complete a BS, ideally on a pathway to the Master’s program, too.

Another interesting development was a suggestion from the Department of Energy to see if UF could use the Internet to deliver classes, instead of driving all over the state. With the support of the Findlay Courier and UF Trustee Ed Heminger’s notion that the Internet would change both publishing and education, the Master’s and degree completion programs went online in the 1999/2000 academic year. In this pre-Zoom era, the platform was a text-only conferencing tool called WebBoard, and it wouldn’t be until the first graduation that most of the faculty ever saw or heard these online students in person. This was one of the first online degree programs in the country. When it was later flagged by our regional accreditor (HLC) as not having been approved to their standards in advance, by-then VPAA Dan May had to remind them that it predated their guidelines for online delivery, and that UF had in fact paved the way developing many of the standards they subsequently adopted.


The Secrets to Success

What was the secret to the long-term success of all the EHS academic and Training Programs? One reason is obviously the fact that FC/UF – with the help of OHM and the Advisory Board – capitalized on an emerging need for employees who were educated and trained to deal with EHS issues of all kinds, across the U.S. and beyond. Another key reason was the dedicated input from many different people from inside FC as well as from across the EHS Industry itself. Also, and as important as anything else, was UF’s ability to always stick with some basic tried-and-true business and marketing principles that generally lead to successful business ventures. Those principles are: 1) initially identify the right target market (students and trainees needing specific levels of EHS education and training); 2) offer the right services (applicable degrees and training courses); 3) offer the services at the right times (day, night, evening weekend, whenever necessary or desired); 4) offer the services in the right locations (on-line, or right at the client’s location); and 5) offer at the right price (academic degrees and training courses affordably priced).


In Appreciation

There have been seven special recognition awards presented over the last 35 years to show appreciation for certain individuals who made specific contribution to the overall success of the program. Special plaques were given to Dr. Luke Bartolomeo (2006), Dan Hehr (2006), Mike Momany (2011), Dr. Tom Gran (2016), Dr. Fred Halvorsen (2016), Steve Nash (2016) and Jim Jaffee (2016).

Even though these key people received special recognition, it is virtually impossible to appropriately thank everyone who had an impact on the initiation and growth of the EHS programs in the early years of development. This article has tried to identify and recognize as many of those people as possible. However, there are countless other UF Administrators, Adjunct and full-time faculty members, trainers, student workers, and general support staff whose contributions led as much to the program’s success as those named herein.

Lastly, one thing all of those involved in the early days will tell you, is that virtually everyone who was involved at any level in this effort was convinced that this program was the right idea at the right time. As a result, they readily dedicated 100 percent of their effort to carry out and complete whatever role they had, to make sure the program was a success.

And that was an absolutely amazing thing to be a part of!!


Those Who Contributed to This Early History of the EHS Programs at UF Article

  • Dr. Ken Zirkle, Former President of UF
  • Dr. Luke Bartolomeo, Former Department Chair of Natural Science Division at UF
  • Dr. Ed Erner, Former Dean of Academic Affairs at UF
  • Randy Van Dyne, Former Executive Director of the UF All Hazards Training Center
  • Dr. Tom Gran, Former Vice President of Analytical Labs at OHM Corporation
  • Dr. Fred Halvorsen, Former Vice President of Safety at OHM Corporation
  • Michael Momany, Former Director of Student Recruitment at UF
  • Jeff Fort, Former Adjunct Faculty Member (from Marathon Oil)
  • Greg Githens, Former Adjunct Faculty Member (from OHM Corporation)
  • Gordon Gillespie, Former Chair of EHS Programs at UF
  • Dan May, Former Dean of Academic Affairs at UF
  • Grant Wilkinson, Former Faculty Member at UF


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