January 28, 2022

In Memoriam: James C. (Jim) Rock, 1943–2021

By Tony Havics

Former AIHA President James C. (Jim) Rock, who was instrumental in the publication of a landmark work in occupational exposure assessment, passed away on Dec. 19, 2021. He was 78.

James (Jim) C. Rock, 1943-2021
James (Jim) C. Rock, 1943-2021

Born in Sayre, Pennsylvania, in 1943, Jim earned a BS in electrical engineering from Syracuse University (1965), and a master’s (1967) and doctorate (1972) in biomedical engineering from Ohio State University. He earned his CIH in comprehensive practice in 1978. He proudly served 27 years in the U.S. Air Force as a bioenvironmental engineer, retiring in 1992 with the rank of colonel. His service history included a position as consulting industrial hygienist to the Air Force surgeon general and commander of the Air Force’s worldwide Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory.

After retiring from the military, Jim joined the faculty of the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University, where he taught industrial hygiene and safety engineering and served as a valuable mentor and thesis advisor for several undergraduate and graduate students. When his teaching career ended, Jim continued his consulting practice, providing litigation support for industrial hygiene and occupational safety-related cases until 2021. In 2014, he was appointed to the U.S. Department of Energy Commission on Toxic Tank Vapors for the DOE Hanford Site, a decommissioned nuclear production complex in Washington state. A Certified Industrial Hygienist in comprehensive practice, Jim was also a licensed professional engineer in Texas and California.

Over the course of his AIHA membership, which began in 1976, Jim served on 12 AIHA technical committees, chairing nine. He founded the Exposure Assessment Committee and served as its first chair, forging a consensus among committee members on quantitative exposure assessment and professional judgment for the industrial hygiene profession. Among his contributions is his work as executive editor for the 1991 AIHA monograph, A Strategy for Occupational Exposure Assessment. This publication was the first edition of what would become A Strategy for Assessing and Managing Occupational Exposures, the definitive work on the subject.

For 17 years Jim served as a longstanding member and outstanding contributor to the Workplace Environmental Exposure Limit (WEEL) Committee. He was instrumental in developing several WEELs, including the policy on extended work shifts. In recognition of his contributions to AIHA and industrial hygiene, Jim was honored as an AIHA Fellow in 1994. Soon after, he was elected to the Board of Directors, and served as president in 1998–1999.

In addition to AIHA, Jim was a member of ACGIH, the American Society of Safety Professionals, the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the New York Academy of Sciences. From 1999 to 2002 he served on the board of directors for the International Occupational Hygiene Association (IOHA).

Jim had a profound impact on the industrial hygiene profession. He presented invited lectures on industrial hygiene and safety engineering in several countries, created an eight-hour course titled “Quantitative Industrial Hygiene and Health Protection Engineering” and served as its first instructor at AIHce, and authored 10 chapters in books and 27 peer-reviewed articles.

Devoted to his family and friends, Jim impressed everyone he met through his generosity, thoughtful advice, and quick wit. He loved to travel, and was active in his church and community.

Bob Nocco, CIH, CSP, who worked with Jim through the WEEL Committee, remembers him as an “absolutely wonderful and dedicated professional” and as an “even greater person with his frankness, objectiveness, thoughtfulness, and kindness.”

Jim was the consummate engineer in how he approached work and life, always intrigued by structure, technology, human factors, and their connections. Yet he never strayed from his faith, which drove him on a daily basis to pursue excellence. He was a friend as much as a mentor, willing to listen and cogitate before offering advice. His insight was genuine and focused on the truth, and his desire to spread wealth, both knowledge and business, was always foremost in his endeavors.

Tony Havics, CIH, PE, is a director at pH2, LLC.


Dignity Memorial: “James Carson Rock."