OSH Generations

Many OSH professionals have parents or children who are also in the profession. Did your son or daughter follow in your footsteps? Did a parent’s involvement in the safety profession encourage you to follow in their footsteps? ASSE would like to hear from you.

Tell us your story of OSH generations.


Maren Korpela

Here’s the story of Maren Korpela, a member of ASSE’s Northwest Chapter.

Maren with her father, Daryl Korpela, CIH.

Occupational Safety & Health has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father, Daryl Korpela, CIH, worked in the OSH industry for more than 30 years. Growing up, we moved across the country a few times as his positions changed and responsibilities grew. I still remember when my dad presented at one of our school career days. He spoke about the duties and importance of an OSH professional. I do not remember any of the other presenters but I remember my father and there was something special about the way he could engage with his audience and get them to understand what he was saying, even if it was a group of 10-year-olds. He helped me get my first job working as an intern in the EHS department for a large company.

Later, he left the corporate world and started his own consulting firm. During my summers in college, I would tag along and work as his assistant for air or noise sampling. Eventually, he started sending me alone to perform sampling and write up reports. Then I was giving HazCom training to small groups of employees and performing site audits. Finally, I decided to jump in with both feet and make my own career in the OSH field. We had many wonderful discussions and it really helped our relationship over the years. I felt like I understood more about him as a person and respected him as a professional in the field. 

My father passed away in 2017 and while it’s been a difficult time, I still feel connected to him through my work. I often find myself wondering, “How would Dad have handled this situation?” I also inherited his collection of articles and training programs that he found worth hanging on to over his long career. While many of the brochures and papers have faded with age, the wisdom on the page is as useful today as the day it was printed. I feel so lucky to have those resources to help guide me in my own path and I am grateful for having such a positive and supportive role model in my father. I hope that I can build a career and reputation that would make him proud.


James VanValkenburg

Here’s the story of James VanValkenburg, CSP, a member of ASSE’s Greater Detroit Chapter.

A girl that I met from a neighboring dorm also changed her degree to Industrial Health and Safety, and we finished our time at OU. We married shortly after graduating and have been together just shy of 30 years, even raised two sons.

James VanValkenburg, his two sons and his wife.

That brings me to the next stage of the story, as both of our sons also attended OU and played on the college’s Division III club hockey team. Our eldest son had intentions of obtaining a nursing degree, but was second guessing his career choice, and asked if I could meet him and a teammate from the hockey team to talk about jobs that I’ve had and the safety field in general.

I met my son and his teammate before a night practice and I spoke for about 2 hours, discussing everything I could think of about safety (e.g., curriculum, safety within different types of industry, normal job duties). I must have intrigued them, because the next semester, they both changed their major to Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), formerly known back in my day as Industrial Health and Safety (IHS).

Since the talk back in 2014, both my son and his former teammate have graduated and obtained OSH positions within two different Fortune 100 companies, and are doing quite well. Furthermore, since my informal “Safety Career Day” discussion at the ice rink back in 2014, another five players from the hockey team have graduated or will graduate in OU’s OSH program.

I consider myself fortunate to have had a successful safety career to date and, like others, have had many memorable career moments. However, I can honestly say that none of the working moments exceed the sense of pride and joy I have knowing that my guidance and mentoring to a couple of D3 club hockey players would result not only in them graduating and being successful, but also how they paid it forward, resulting in more fine men making their mark on the world in the OSH field.

Kirk Davis

Here’s the story of Kirk Davis, a member of ASSE’s Colonial Virginia Chapter.

My father was a P.E. and held a Civil Engineering degree from University of Colorado (via GI bill post World War II). He was assigned various management positions with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad until  he was promoted to the company’s vice president for safety. While not new to safety in the early 70s it was still viewed as a nonmainstream discipline. However, my father made a science of it. He scoured the libraries, wrote off for books about safety culture, attended lectures and conferences and then changed what he could in the company. I still recall seeing the pocket protectors he had made up that read; “Accident Free in ‘73.”  Through his efforts and vision, his team significantly reduced the accident rates on the railroad and he received several awards and recognition from both the Union and company management. photo.JPG

Not long after that I was at the University of Colorado with a science degree, and a commission in the U.S. Navy as a navy diver and EOD officer. Since closing that chapter, I found myself following my father’s energy and passion into safety management, working for major environmental companies as well as in oil and gas. Safety management has changed significantly since then—for the better. Our career field has moved the clock ahead about 40 years, and it is a different culture today. However, I do ponder the effect a company slogan on pocket protector might have on even our statistics.

Ryan Nicholson

Here’s the story of Ryan Nicholson, CSP, a professional member of ASSE’s Quad Cities Chapter.

Safety has been near and dear to my heart since I was a young boy; my dad didn’t give me a choice! My father, Michael C. Nicholson, CHST, has made construction safety his career since 1979. It was in that year when my father applied and accepted a position in safety at the Willow Island, WV, Power Station. The position was created following one of the largest construction accidents in American history when 51 workers lost their lives. Willow Island was a tragedy that wiped out entire families. At 5 years old, it’s not something I clearly remember. However, I do remember the dedication to his work and family that my dad showed and continues to show. He is approaching retirement now after almost 35 years as a safety professional, one of, if not the best in the industry!  Growing up it was always, “Get your safety glasses on when you’re doing that,” “Put shoes on or you’re gonna cut your foot open,” “You should be wearing earplugs,” and “Put your seat belt on!” My father carried the same care for safety he showed us out to the workers in the field. He did it with a plain and simple approach that just won people over and created an attitude of empowerment.

My dad helped me get my first construction job in college as a laborer, with a division of Walbridge-Aldinger, building a couple of large department stores in the Akron, OH, area. At that point, I felt a calling to construction and protecting workers. I began searching local universities for programs that had a safety focus and, at the time, the only local campus with an SH&E program was Cleveland State University. I obtained a degree in Environmental Studies from Cleveland State University. My experience and training increased while working for Morrison-Knudsen (eventually became Washington Group and is now URS) on several large projects in Ohio. My drive to increase my experience in safety just continued to grow. I felt myself wanting to be more involved in the work and helping workers eliminate hazards on the front lines. Over the next 18 years I worked for several other construction contractors in and around Ohio such as S.E. Johnson Cos., Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. and The Ruhlin Co. It was at The Ruhlin Co. in Sharon Center, OH, where I became the corporate safety director and was supported by Jim Ruhlin, president and CEO. In September 2011, I received my CSP designation. Also in 2011, Ruhlin was awarded the Willow Island Hydroelectric Project by American Municipal Power (AMP) of Ohio. This is a $140-million hydroelectric plant on the Ohio River, 32 years later and less than a mile from where my father began his safety career. That was probably one of the most memorable times for me, being able to see the site where so many lives were tragically impacted and to be able to pray for the continued healing of those families. It amazes me how that incident basically shaped my father’s and my life for what was to come in the future.

Nicholson_SH&ENow, in 2013, my father is planning retirement and I am planning my next safety initiative as the new Westfield Insurance safety manager. Who knows, maybe my son or daughter will be a third generation safety professional. As you can see in the photo, my son Gabe already loves the fit of a hard hat! And, Dad: Congratulations on your retirement and thank you for the example you have set for me and hundreds of other safety professionals!


James T. Wilson Jr.

Here’s the story of James T. Wilson Jr., CSP, CIH, a professional member of ASSE’s East Texas Chapter.


My daughter, Cassie Johnson, and I are both in the business of safety. What we do protects and helps people each day. It is exciting to get a call from Cassie asking me a professional question and even more exciting to ask her for information that I don’t have. She is employed at a U.S. Department of Defense facility as a business continuity specialist, having previously provided emergency planning for Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Emergency Regulatory Commission.  She won the first Business Continuity Personality of the Year Award, making her father very proud.

James Wilson is a professional member of ASSE’s East Texas Chapter. He works in industrial hygiene for Eastman Chemical Co. in Longview, TX.


Dave Schaller

Here’s the story of David Schaller, a professional member of ASSE’s Quad Cities Chapter.

I served 22 years in the U.S. Navy and in that time had many safety positions associated with my job. Although I did not initially think of doing safety when I got out, after only a short time as a construction glazier (windows and curtain wall) I was asked to be the company’s safety manager. Since then I have completed more education within the safety environment and have taught and managed the TEEX Region VI OSHA Education Center for a few years teaching OSHA and safety courses. During this time, my son, who is also a glazier, was working around the country. My son, David R. Schaller II, likes to go by Ray. He was a good glazier and had worked his way up to superintendent while in Kansas City, MO.

David Schaller Corp Dir. Safety Health 2013 WLF.jpg

David Schaller

David (RAy) Schaller Flintco AL 2013.JPG

David “Ray” Schaller II

During that time the economy had slowed and he was finding it hard to find full-time work. Knowing that I worked in safety and seeing the kind of work I did, he decided that with my help he would try and follow me in this profession. I sent him through the CSHO certification program at TEEX. While attending he was able to network and find a job working for Beard Mechanical and held that job developing his skills until he was hired by Flintco, a general contractor located in Oklahoma. He was assigned a job as safety manager at the University of Texas at Austin campus for 3 years and was then promoted to regional safety director.

Currently he works on a project in Alabama and I am the corporate director of safety for West Liberty Foods, a 100% landfill-free company, in West Liberty, IA. I think that the most important thing about his choice to become a safety professional is that he is great at it. Being able to speak Spanish allows him to work well in the business and helps him work with all trades to improve their safety behaviors and surroundings. I am very proud of his contributions to safety and as a son.


Sam Gualardo

Here’s the story of Sam Gualardo, M.A., CSP, a member of ASSE’s Western Pennsylvania Chapter.

In the late 70s, my dad influenced me to pursue safety management as a major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) as a young college student. He was overseeing safety for a school district at that time as an administrator. And, it looks like my children are now following in my footsteps. Zach recently graduated from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), with degrees in aviation and safety. He was the ASSE student section president at ERAU and has attended ASSE’s annual conference and student future leaders conferences on several occasions. He recently accepted a job with CNA in risk control. My daughter Lexi is a junior at IUP enrolled in the safety sciences curriculum and also has attended the PDC on various occasions. She is also a member of ASSE’s IUP Student Section.

Sam Gualardo is director, PA OSHA consultation for IUP, and he is a professional member of ASSE’s Western Pennsylvania. He was also ASSE’s 2000-01 President.


Ron Gantt

Here’s the story of Ron Gantt, CSP, ARM, CET, a professional member of ASSE’s San Francisco Chapter.

PaulandRon.jpg I wanted to share the story of my father and myself. Twenty-two years ago, after retiring as a fire chief, my father, Paul Gantt, started an occupational safety and health consulting and training company while I was still in middle school. As my father grew his business, I, like many other sons, had a natural aversion to the whole thing. I always swore I’d never join the company. However, life intervened, and after some failed tries at other careers I came to my father looking for an entry-level job to hold me over for a while. My father was thrilled, but I still wasn’t convinced, always keeping an eye out for other opportunities. However, my father encouraged me to finish a degree in occupational safety and health, and I got a few certifications.

After a few years at the company, my father’s passion started to win me over. With his help, I’ve earned my CSP and my ARM. Now, in addition to working together, we meet regularly to talk about safety, trying to understand the topic in a deeper way so that we can better serve our clients. Having spoken at ASSE’s annual Professional Development Conference for several years, my father copresented with me at Safety 2011 and since then we’ve spoken together at other conferences and seminars. Last year, we signed up for a Master of Engineering program in Advanced Safety Engineering and Management and are working through that together. Working with family doesn’t work for everyone, but in our situation we challenge each other and encourage each other’s passion for safety.

Ron is vice president of operations for Safety Compliance Management Inc.


Elizabeth Maples

Here’s the story of Elizabeth H. Maples, Ph.D., a member of ASSE’s Alabama Chapter.


My daughter, Stephanie, was close to graduating with an undergraduate degree in philosophy, when she decided to take a course in industrial hygiene. She was hooked. After completing her master’s degree in Industrial Hygiene at University of Alabama at Birmingham, she worked for NIOSH for a few years. Currently, Stephanie is working on her doctorate in Occupational Injury Prevention at Auburn University, College of Engineering, Industrial & Systems Engineering. Her research is on robustly defining the incidence rate of musculoskeletal disorders in southeastern loggers, and identifying the most problematic machine to propose remediation at the design level. Her advisor, is Rich Sesek, Ph.D., CSP, CPE, at Auburn University. I am quite proud of my daughter and her dedication to protecting and promoting worker health and safety.

Elizabeth Maples, Ph.D., is deputy director/assistant professor at Deep South Center of OH&S Environmental Health Sciences, UAB School of Public Health. She is a professional member of ASSE’s Alabama Chapter.


Bob Jernigan Jr.

Here’s the story of Bob Jernigan Jr., a member of ASSE’s Alabama Chapter.

Jernigan_GenerationsMy dad, Bob Jernigan, began his career as a safety engineer with an insurance company back in 1965. I am shown pictured with him in the photo, which was taken sometime in the late 1960s. He retired from the field in 2002.

After I graduated college and was looking for a job change, my dad suggested interviewing with the insurance company he started with. At the time, it was hard to imagine doing the same thing he had done. However now, after 27 years this coming June, I too have remained in the field and with the same company!


Dan Della-Giustina

Here’s the story of ASSE Fellow Dan Della-Giustina, Ph.D., CHCM, a professional member of ASSE’s Northern West Virginia Chapter.

Dan Della-Giustina has been employed at West Virginia University for 38 years and has chaired the Safety and Environmental Graduate Department for 18 years. He is a professor in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Previously, he worked at Michigan State for a few years and Aetna Life & Casualty for 2 years. In addition to being an ASSE Fellow, he has held numerous offices at the national, regional and chapter level, so his involvement with the Society has been plentiful. He is currently the chapter treasurer and has been the student section advisor for 28 years. Dan’s son Daniel has followed in his father’s occupational safety and health footsteps. Daniel is the corporate safety director for Consigli Construction Co. in Milford, MA. He has been working in the safety field for more than 35 years.

“Having my son in the safety profession has been magnificent for me,” says Della-Giustina. “He is well versed in the 20 years that he has been a safety director in the construction industry in the greater Boston area. He has an MS in Safety Management and also is a CSP. What more can I ask for from a son who follows his dad’s profession.”


Rick Zimmerman

Rick Zimmerman, CSP, is a professional member of ASSE’s Lower Columbia Basin Chapter and is a safety professional for Mission Support Alliance LLC. Here is his SH&E Generations story:

As a young child I vividly remember Sunday dinners where Grandpa lead the prayer. He did so by folding his hands, which were missing several fingers, and his hearing aid whistling away with feedback. I later learned that he lost his fingers and damaged his hearing while working at the family grain mill. This was the beginning of my interest in safety and preventing injuries. As a college student in the mid-70s, I was home for the weekend mowing my parents lawn wondering what career I should pursue and thinking about an article about Oregon State University forming a Safety Studies degree program. That was the beginning of my pursuit of a meaningful career in safety that has spanned 3 decades. In doing so, I broke the family tradition and became an electrical engineer.

Rick Zimmerman with his dad.

However, I soon realized that I was following in some of my dad’s footsteps as he was deeply involved in training and testing electrical inspectors and was also a member on an NFPA 70 National Electrical Code panel. Discussion about his code panel work helped me realize that some changes do not happen overnight. His saying “ You don’t have problems, just opportunities”  has helped me look for successes in all that has come my way. As a matter of fact, he celebrated his 90th birthday recently and still thrives on the opportunities of life. He is planning on sailing up the Amazon in January.


Sarah Finn

Sarah B. Finn is a safety, health and environmental manager, and a member of ASSE’s Greater San Jose Chapter. Here is her SH&E Generations story:

Once a year, I would arrive home from school and find the dining room rearranged, with all of the chairs in the house set up into aisles. I would put down my backpack and take my seat as a “passenger” on my mom’s mock airplane, ready for takeoff.  We would spend the next few hours “in flight,” running through her preflight announcements, safety checks and emergency scenarios in preparation for her annual flight attendant’s Recurrent Emergency Training and test. At the time, I didn’t think much about its importance, I just thought of it as quality time spent with my mom. My mom always expressed to me that her role was not to simply serve coffee, wait on passengers or put their luggage into overhead bins. I realized then that essentially flight attendants are first responders in the sky. They inspect the safety equipment, educate and train the passengers on emergency preparedness, provide first aid, assist passengers in emergencies and are the eyes and ears looking and listening for signs of trouble to communicate to the pilots who are locked away in the cockpit, relying on their instruments and gauges. I took in the experience and appreciated the role of the flight attendants on every airplane that I flew in.

I went through college believing that I would be some sort of educator or teacher so when I entered the workforce, the safety field was far off of my radar.  However, in my first management position as a training supervisor for a leading transportation company, I was assigned to provide new hire training, which included the new hire safety training. Standing in the front of the class, teaching employees the importance of safety, proper methods, use of PPE and more, brought back the fond memory of my childhood experience with my mom, in the dining room of my childhood home. It was then that I realized my passion for safety and began to pursue a career in the SH&E field.

I often think back on my childhood experience fondly, with understanding that although my mom was not an SH&E professional, her commitment to providing a safe environment for the thousands of passengers who flew the friendly skies with her started me down the path that lead me to discover my passion for the field of protecting employee’s safety, health and the environment.


Holly White

Here’s the story of Holly White.

I became interested in a safety career because my brother graduated from the safety program at University of Central Missouri (UCM) several years ago and became a safety manager for Glacier Construction Co. in Denver, CO, about 6 years ago. He really enjoys his work. He has won several awards within the safety community for the excellent job he does providing a safe work environment for his employees.

Holly White, ASSE Heart of America Chapter’s UCM Student Section Secretary

I worked as a bank manager for 10 years and recently joined the safety department at UCM because during my work experience, I learned that jobs are not just about the money but about job satisfaction as well. I am looking to get into a field where I can help others and enjoy what I do at the same time. My brother talks all the time about how he is able to help people on a daily basis and the great satisfaction that he gets from his job. From his experiences and stories in the safety field and the classes I have taken thus far, it seems like something I will really enjoy doing and will get a lot of fulfillment from.


Teri North

Here’s the story of Teri North, CSP.

Teri North’s involvement in the safety profession is one of three members of her family involved in the profession. Teri was encouraged by her stepfather, Jim Twigg, to check out the safety degree program at Central Missouri State University (CMSU) in Warrensburg, MO. She did so and earned a bachelor’s degree in Safety in 1978. One of her younger brothers, Larry Twigg, also followed her to CMSU, completing his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Safety in 1981.

Teri went on to earn a master’s degree in Safety Management at CMSU in 1989, and also the CSP designation. Teri is currently a safety engineer with Dade Moeller and Associates Inc., a contractor on the Mission Support Alliance contract for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hanford site in Richland, WA. In her current role, she works with MSA Worker Protection and provides safety and health support for Lockheed Martin’s engineering and communications.

While in college, representatives from Amoco Corp. came to CMSU looking for degreed safety professionals and Teri agreed to an internship with them. She continued to work with them over the years in their chemical and oil and gas production businesses in North Carolina, Georgia and Wyoming. She has also worked at DOE sites in South Carolina, Wyoming and now Washington.

Teri also has served as an adjunct professor at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro and Aiken Technical College in Aiken, SC. She believes professionals should take time to teach and mentor others in the safety profession. She enjoys assisting interns that are just beginning their careers, helping part-time people while they are working on their education or those new to the safety profession. She wants to encourage others to join such a rewarding profession.

Jim Twigg, Teri North and Larry Twigg

Teri’s stepfather, Jim Twigg, of Kansas City, MO, now retired since 1984, worked for DOT for 20 years. Teri notes that when her dad got out of high school, he wanted to “see the country” and he decided the best way to do that was driving a truck. He also took the civil service exam and went to work for the Interstate Commerce Commission. He then transferred to DOT when it was created and spent some time in Washington, DC. Jim developed hiring standards and a progressive discipline program (unheard of in those days) and served as a HazMat field programs officer, Kansas officer in charge, regional accident investigation specialist, handicapped driver, waiver specialist and as associate staff at the Transportation Safety Institute in Oklahoma City, OK. As a waiver specialist, he was responsible for the driving waiver for the first above the knee, right leg and above the elbow right arm amputees. With his knowledge of mechanics and the driving task, he was able to describe how the driver was compensating for the handicap. Those drivers were virtually accident free at the time, and were beating the general public in accident-free records. Jim also spent 14 years as a loss prevention manager for an insurance company and provided a paper and presentation on highway transportation of flammable liquids at an international conference on flammability.

Teri’s brother, Larry Twigg, is currently the International Commercial EHS manager with Abbott Laboratories in Chicago. Larry has regional responsibility for Asia, Africa, Middle East, Japan and Europe large business units (France, Italy, Germany, U.K. and Spain).

Both Teri and Larry were members of ASSE student sections in college. Teri has been an active member for more than 30 years. She actively participates in local chapters as has had several work-related moves around the nation. In the past, she served on executive committees, including the positions of secretary and president, and she highly values her ASSE network.

Teri is grateful that her career also has allowed her to “see the country” just as her stepfather wanted to do when he set out on a career path. She loves travel and has met great people all around the country. Teri believes she is very fortunate to have family that encouraged her to join the safety profession and is thankful for their support through the years. She is also grateful to her “second family” of ASSE members across the country. Teri was recently selected as one of ASSE’s 100 Women Making a Difference in Safety.