Roy McKinney Buchan—an AIHA past president, winner of numerous awards, and mentor to many in the profession—passed away Oct. 22 at the age of 68. As the following remembrances from AIHA colleagues make clear, he will not be forgotten.
If I were asked to describe Roy Buchan in one word, it would be the word fortitude. In all my dealings with Roy as I followed him through the officers' chairs of AIHA's Board, he always faced whatever came before him, be it budgetary challenges or controversy over inter-organizational issues, in a straightforward way and without hesitation. His focus on international issues in general and specifically his teaching in Romania, were conducted at both personal expense and physical hardship, but he expressed the greatest devotion to this work and constancy of purpose. I sat with Roy in the hospital during one of his bouts with chronic disease of the most serious kind. His interest and desire to recuperate from his illness and re-engage in his chosen profession far outweighed the pain and suffering he endured at the time. Lastly I will remember his outright desire and dedication to a continuing, meaningful industrial hygiene practice, even in what some might characterize as the twilight of his professional life. His intense interest in serving on NACOSH was but one of several examples of his devotion to our profession.
Roy Buchan was truly a giant of our profession. His passion for improving workers lives and inspiring students knew no boundaries. It was a privilege to know Roy, to be a part of his life. Responses from colleagues around the world attest that Roy was a mentor and friend to so many of us. As President of AIHA and Chair of ACGIH he led international initiatives in Poland, Romania, Brazil and a number of other nations - helping foster academic and professional capacity to address pressing occupational health and safety problems. His wife Vicky was an inextricable part of this work and his life, our thoughts and prayers go out to her and the rest of his family. Roy's vision and commitment have had a profound impact on our profession and on workers throughout the world. We will miss him dearly, and we will remember him by continuing his legacy.
Elizabeth Pullen, AIHA President:
I will remember Roy Buchan as a person with a great intellect and a big heart. He was a kind man and so warm and friendly. He was always looking to serve others - his students, his professional societies and countries needing industrial hygiene and occupational health training. His impact will be felt for a long time, through all the people he trained and inspired.
Peter O'Neil, AIHA Executive Director:
AIHA staff fondly remembers all of the great energy and enthusiasm that Roy brought to volunteer committee and Board meetings. Roy was always candid and honest with his feedback to Directors and staff alike, and he always kept in mind that he was serving a broad skill-based, noble profession. We also remember how much Roy loved his family and how often and fondly he spoke of them. Roy will be remembered for his lasting leadership legacy within AIHA and certainly within the IH community. We will miss him very much.
Dr. Buchan was a key person in my life, although at the time, I didn't recognize just what his influence would mean. As a student in the Environmental Health program at Colorado State University, Dr. Buchan was a slightly intimidating professor. I can recall having to give a presentation on work at high altitudes before a class consisting primarily of graduate students. I can still see Dr. Buchan in the back of the room, listening intently. Then, it was time for the Q&A. I remember that he challenged me on some point long forgotten, and I somehow managed to hold my own, after which Dr. Buchan acknowledged I was correct in my theory. Whew! He certainly made you think for yourself, and he always tried to get the best out of every student. In the last part of my senior year when it came time to find an internship for the last semester, I was still confused as to what career path I should follow. Toxicology? Public health? Industrial Hygiene? Dr. Buchan took me in hand, and directed me to take an internship in industrial hygiene at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. He said that industrial hygiene was the right career path for me. When I told him I didn't know how I could go there since I was almost out of money (having put myself through school) he said he'd fix it. He took it upon himself to set me up with two families there who provided housing during my semester long internship. And, needless to say, the internship was fantastic and I was absolutely certain that industrial hygiene was the right career for me and my curious mind! Upon graduating, I returned home to western Colorado and began searching for a job. Again, Dr. Buchan stepped in. He called one day to say that the OSHA regional administrator in Seattle was interested in picking up an IH trainee, and that I would be perfect for this opportunity. Jim Lake, the RA at that time called me, and the rest as they say is history. Now I am a Regional Administrator trying in my own way to help others find their career path to success. I owe so much to Dr. Buchan, and will never forget that piercing blue gaze or the joy he found in horses which was a love we both shared, and about which we enjoyed trading stories. I know he is up there somewhere, riding a favorite cow pony across a cloudless sky. Happy Trails, Roy.
He was a colleague who mastered the wonderful balance of intellect, heart, soul and fine humor! He was truly one of a kind!
How does one sum up the worth of a man in words—not an easy task. Roy Buchan was a colleague, peer and friend of mine. Many will write of the very significant technical contributions of Roy's career. For me, there was much more about Roy that our profession should know. Roy was unique as we all are. He was a "bull" of a man. Somewhat gruff and seemingly not very sophisticated but with a hidden soft side that not everyone knew. He was extremely firm in stature (like a brick wall), a true cowboy but with a very soft side and quite sentimental. He could ride a horse like a professional, drink you under the table and talk the talk with the best of them. He was a man's man. For the many that he mentored, he was more the father figure providing good career advice and a true dedication to advancing his students and the profession. Roy weathered the storm of unification, which took a big toll on him, to become the President of AIHA after serving in that role for ACGIH. It was clear that his goal was always advancing the Profession. What gave him most pleasure, was his later role as a leader in the development and progression of industrial hygiene in Eastern Europe. We have a lot celebrate about the life of Roy Buchan. I am proud to have known him and to have called him a friend.
Those who knew Roy will agree our profession has lost a truly great man—a professional who dedicated his life to improving workplace health and safety around the world, and who mentored and served as a role model to more than we will ever know. And I am proud to say that included me.
Those of you who did not, you have missed an opportunity to experience a great human being and a genuine leader in our profession.
Roy has given us his all and it is now up to us to continue the charge and improve worker health and safety in all parts of the world, as Roy envisioned.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to another great caring person, Vicky, his loving partner for many years, and the rest of his family.