Professor Gary Dean Herrin died peacefully at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan on August 18, 2011 surrounded by his family. He was born February 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio. After graduation from Reynoldsburg High School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Gary continued his education at Ohio State University (OSU), where he received his BS, MS, and PhD in Industrial Engineering. While at OSU he met and married Michael Prather in 1968.
In 1973 Gary joined the faculty in the Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan (UM). He served as the first director for the Center for Ergonomics, which was formed in 1980 at the University of Michigan.
Gary was a true engineering statistician. He enjoyed using his profound knowledge of statistical concepts to solve a variety of engineering problems. Early in his career at the UM he became nationally known for his papers that showed how various manual exertions required of workers in a variety of industries caused serious and debilitating musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses. This led to his being asked by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to develop a statistical method that could be used to guide safety and ergonomics programs in companies that were interested in preventing musculoskeletal injuries. A Committee of Experts working for NIOSH later sanctioned Gary’s formula as the foundation for its widely circulated 1981 document: “A Work Practice Guideline for Manual Lifting”. This document and Gary’s risk prediction formula was quickly adopted by different professional safety organizations, and became the basis for safe weight lifting regulations in several countries. For over a decade it was the most popular occupational health and safety document published by NIOSH. It is believed by many safety professionals that thousands of workers have avoided serious injuries and illnesses because of Gary’s work. In 1991 a second Expert Panel was sanctioned by NIOSH, and with minor adjustments and additions to Gary’s formula, it supported the fundamental structure of his original work. It remains to this day as the most prevalent means to control manual materials handling overexertion injuries in companies around the world.
In his later years at UM he devoted himself to providing a sound statistical basis for six sigma product quality programs. He developed an on-line teaching program to assist quality assurance personnel in companies who desired to learn more about the underlying statistical methods needed to improve their quality control programs.
Gary was not only a superb classroom teacher, having received the Teacher of the Year Award from the UM Society of Women Engineers in 2005, but he also was principal advisor on 20 PhD thesis committees and was a member of 68 other PhD thesis committees. He was the type of person who knew how to use humor to make a point in his lectures. Many times he would ask a question that would inspire students and colleagues to think about a problem from a different and important perspective.
He did not shy away from serving the student body either. He was very active in the IE honorary society, Alpha Pi Mu, where he became the National APM President, and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. In 1998 he was appointed the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, a post that he held until 2005. During this time he used his statistical expertise to assist the College of Engineering in their efforts to better recruit and retain under represented minorities and women students.
One of Gary’s favorite pastimes was ballroom dancing with his wife Michael. They continued weekly lessons for many years, and often were the center of attention on the dance floor with their fluid and intricate movements. Gary also was an accomplished accordion player, entertaining at many parties and sing-a-longs over the years.
Gary is survived by his wife of 41 years, Michael Herrin, his three children, Jeff, Brandon and Whitney Dowd, along with six grandchildren, his mother, Eleanor Herrin, sister Debbie Coy, and brother Greg Herrin.
Donations can be made to the American Cancer Society, or to the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Team.