KAY BECHTOLD is assistant editor of The Synergist. She can be reached at or (703) 846-0737.
Finding Fertile Ground AIHA Past President Sees Risk Management as Part of IH’s Future BY KAY BECHTOLD, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE SYNERGIST
Editor’s note: The individuals featured in this series were selected from responses to a survey that AIHA conducted in 2014. For background, see "The IH Hero Gap" in the January 2015 issue. Jim Thornton graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering in 1969, just in time for the burgeoning space program to bottom out. “It was booming, and then, six months later, priorities shifted and we had rocket scientists literally pumping gas,” Thornton says. He graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., only about 200 miles away from Huntsville, Ala., where a heavy concentration of rocket scientists made their living at the Marshall Space Flight Center, located on the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal. Unable to find a job in his chosen field, Thornton found work doing “a little bit of everything” as an engineering associate in Muscle Shoals, Ala., for Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federally owned corporation that provides electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and a number of other industrial operations. THE ROAD TO IH After about a year, Thornton was ready to move up. TVA management liked to promote from within, and Thornton was the first one in each Monday when the new job postings came out. One morning he saw an opening for an industrial hygiene technician. He had no idea what that meant—some kind of disinfecting job?—but as he read on, he became intrigued. He decided to throw his hat in the ring, went in for the interview, and ultimately got the job.