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Ralph Stuart, a groundbreaker in environmental health and safety and a leader in ACS, passed away on December 6, 2023.
Over the course of nearly 40 years, Ralph made an incredible impact on health and safety.
Ralph was a pioneer in the health and safety field. Within ACS, he worked with and led the Division of Chemical Health and Safety and the Committee on Chemical Safety. He created the first known safety listserve (SAFETY-L), as well as the DCHAS-L listserve and this DCHAS website. He was an active member of the Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA) for more than 35 years, and he worked with organizations and individuals worldwide.
Ralph has published many papers and presented scores of lectures, workshops, and webinars, and he encouraged and inspired even more papers and presentations from others. He was so creative, so intelligent, and so motivated to push harder to find more and more ways to reach people and connect them with the information they need – his enthusiasm and passion were infectious. He mentored many people, from health and safety professionals to undergraduate students.
Ralph didn’t just talk, he acted, and in so doing created or inspired countless resources.
In 1985, Ralph joined the staff of the University of Vermont to create their first Chemical Right-to-Know program. Over the next 27 years, he built that program into an Environmental Health and Safety office that continues to flourish under the leadership of his protégé, Francis Churchill. He returned to his alma mater, Cornell University, where he made the connection between health and safety and science librarians, which initiated the connection between CHAS and CINF. In 2014, Ralph joined Keene State College as its Chemical Hygiene Officer and Environmental Safety Manager. He served as a mentor to many students in the Safety and Occupational Health Applied Sciences program and taught several courses. He was expecting to retire from Keene State later this year.
Among his countless accomplishments, Ralph created networks for individuals and groups to communicate and share resources and ideas virtually. In the early 1990s, he recognized the connection of behavioral sciences and laboratory safety and brought such professionals into the field. He boldly reached out to the EPA to convince them that there was a more effective way to manage chemical waste at universities, eventually leading to the current Academic Waste Rules. He worked with the NIH and international collaborators to study how people look for chemical safety information and how to drive them to the best resources. He worked with graduate students and early career scientists and health and safety professionals to provide mentorship and encourage best practices and conversation. He worked with educators to advance pedagogy for continuous learning.
Ralph influenced, inspired, and mentored so many people who will feel his loss, and impacted people who never heard of him in ways they will not know. He has truly planted trees under whose shade he knew he would never sit.
Ralph’s family will have a private memorial service in 2024. ACS DCHAS will share additional ways to celebrate his life over the coming weeks.