March 21, 2017
Donald Robinson, for 42 years the executive director of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), has announced his retirement, effective June 4.
An on-campus reception in his honor is being planned for mid-May.
Beginning with a General Electric/UMass Amherst apprentice program in 1960, Robinson has been associated with the university for 57 years and has served under 11 chancellors and interim chancellors.
“Over the years I have experienced UMass as a student, a staff member, a parent of two students and the spouse of a student,” he wrote in his letter of retirement in which he praised the university for its unwavering support for the mission of EH&S.
“Most importantly, whatever I have been able to accomplish is due directly to the dedicated service of my staff. I am truly blessed,” he said.
After four years with the GE program, which was based in Pittsfield, Robinson had completed two years of the electrical engineering curriculum and became a full-time mechanical engineering student, completing his degree in 1966. After graduation, he returned to GE, earning a master’s in engineering management from Northeastern through evening classes. He was appointed manager of safety at GE in Lynn.
In 1975, he joined UMass Amherst as director of EH&S, which at the time was a seven-person organization based in University Health Services. Today, EH&S includes a staff of 40 and a student EMS group with more than 100 members.
Robinson says he initially viewed his role as transforming EH&S into a professional services organization, which he feels he accomplished. “In fact I have come to realize that there is no finish line to the work of EH&S. However, there is a commitment for continuous improvement,” he said.
As areas of major improvement over the decades, Robinson cites residence hall fire safety; hazardous waste management (“another one of those issues that kept me awake at night”); radiation safety; a chemical environment management system; chemical inventory control; laboratory safety training and, since 2005, coordination of campus emergency management.
Now under the vice chancellor for administration and finance, EH&S includes biological and environmental health services, emergency preparedness/business continuity, environmental compliance and management services, fire and campus safety services, industrial hygiene and lab safety services, radiation safety services.
Robinson says has learned much from health and safety organizations at campuses around the country. He has served as vice president of the National Safety Council for Campus Safety; president of the Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Health Association; and chair of the Safety Council of Western New England.
Robinson said, “UMass has provided a special setting for my family life.” He met his wife Sara here, they had their wedding reception in the Cape Cod Lounge. Sara earned her doctorate here and two of their three children graduated from UMass Amherst with engineering degrees.
In what he calls his “rewirement,” Robinson said he hopes to maintain ties to the university with his adjunct faculty appointment or other activity.