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Furr to retire from university

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 14 - December 1, 1994

A. Keith Furr, director of Environmental Health and Safety Services, is retiring from the university after more than 34 years.

Furr joined the faculty in the Department of Physics in September 1960, eventually achieving the rank of full professor in that department in 1970. While there, he was closely associated with the university's nuclear reactor and became director of the facility in 1971. During this time he directed doctoral and master's students, published more than 60 journal publications, and two books. In 1964 he created a neutron-activation analysis laboratory at the reactor, which was among the most active in the country. Most of the projects dealt with the role of trace elements in the environment, which he worked on in collaboration with other scientists within the university, other universities, and national agencies. In 1971 he transferred to mechanical engineering where he continued nuclear research.

In the early 1970s, in cooperation with the biology department, he created a program in radiation safety that graduated more than 100 specialists in radiation safety before its closure in the early '80s. In the late 1980s he was charged with decommissioning and dismantling the university's research reactor. He has been either a member or chairman of the university's Radiation Safety Committee since its inception in 1960 and member of numerous other university committees.

In 1973, Furr was asked to draft a plan for a comprehensive safety program for the university. The plan was implemented in 1974 with the creation of what is now the Environmental Health and Safety Services Department. In 1975, Furr was asked to become the department's director.

The department has grown to encompass safety concerns in air quality, chemical safety and chemical waste disposal, health effects of the environment, environmental concerns such as asbestos, lead, radiation, infectious materials, electrical and mechanical safety, building construction and design, personal protective equipment, and many other safety areas.

The department is also responsible for ensuring that employees understand the hazards of working with chemicals, community-right-to-know, bloodborne pathogens, and safety training for employees working in confined spaces.

Furr will remain in the Blacksburg area, where he will continue to write as well as pursue other interests.