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HFES News and Bulletin

Remembering Hal W. Hendrick
Thursday, May 26, 2011

The international human factors/ergonomics community is mourning the loss of Hal Hendrick, past president of HFES and the International Ergonomics Association, whose battle with cancer ended on May 13. Hal's friend and colleague Andrew S. Imada has contributed the following remembrance, and HFES is inviting similar written tributes from Hal's friends and colleagues, to be published in a special issue of the HFES Bulletin. Please contact HFES Executive Director Lynn Strother for additional information.

 Remembering Hal Hendrick

By Andrew S. Imada 

On May 13, 2011, HFES and the entire human factors/ergonomics profession lost a legendary figure when Hal W. Hendrick passed away at the age of 78. With his passing, many of us lost a dear friend and colleague. Hal's many accomplishments were beautifully documented in HFES President Marvin Dainoff's citation during the 2006 HFES award ceremony when Hal received the Arnold M. Small President’s Distinguished Service Award.

Hal lived in New York until he left to attend Ohio Wesleyan University. Perhaps not surprisingly to many, he attended a seminary briefly until he found that for him, psychology was a better vehicle to achieve his ultimate goal of helping people. His career in the U.S. Air Force allowed him to pursue a doctoral degree in industrial/organizational psychology at Purdue University.

Hal had an illustrious career at the University of Southern California, where he served as a professor, chair of the Human Factors Department, and eventually executive director of the Institute of Safety and Systems Management. He was widely respected at USC and won several accolades there, including a university award for excellence in teaching.

It was during his time at USC that Hal and his colleagues developed the organizational design and management (ODAM) movement, which began in 1984 with its first international symposium. This spring saw ODAM's 10th meeting held in Grahamstown, South Africa, where Hal and his long-time collaborator, Ted Brown, were honored for their pioneering work.

Hal Hendrick was perhaps the greatest contributor of his time in so many respects. Despite the magnitude of his contributions, an even greater achievement is the respect he enjoyed from his colleagues within HFES and around the world. Since his passing, people have shown an outpouring of respect, gratitude, and mutual loss for a real friend. Like important baseball statistics, many of his most important qualities will go undocumented in the annals of history and will elude résumé-building, but they are apparent to all who knew him well. He was more than a great professional: He was a great leader, thinker, mentor, and a true friend.

The marks of Hal’s leadership are clear in the organizations that he chose to support with a vigor and vision second to none. His leadership in HFES included his presidency, many years on Executive Council, and active involvement in technical groups and special projects. He served as the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) president, secretary general, and HFES representative to IEA’s Council, and he introduced the HFES structure of technical groups to the international community. He was a founding member of the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE) and the Foundation for Professional Ergonomics (FPE) and was working to promote Ergonomists Without Borders (EWB) with a group of energized professionals who want to help those who can benefit most from our profession.

Hal has been honored with the HFES’s coveted awards. In 2010, the Society's Executive Council renamed the Distinguished International Colleague Award in honor of Hal to recognize his career-long dedication to advancing the profession globally. Hal left indelible impressions in the universities, companies, clients, and professional organizations where he worked.

Hal had a great ability to think beyond the immediate discussion. Macroergonomics is the result of his ability to merge human factors/ergonomics with industrial/organizational psychology and systems theory into a new way of thinking and talking about complete solutions. His article "Good Ergonomics Is Good Economics" is cited widely around the world. He integrated his teaching, his work life experience in the Air Force, his successes and challenges, and his personal and family life into a coherent whole. Hal brought this to a culmination in the book he published recently, It All Begins with SELF. He lived in a way that was true to what he believed intellectually.

Many of us who were lucky enough to know him considered him a role model, mentor, and teacher. Hal was always encouraging, positive, and optimistic about what you could accomplish. Like a good coach, he never hesitated to tell you that you did a good job and always presented suggestions for improvement in a way that was palatable to the motivated but struggling performer. He was an indefatigable proponent of what is possible and what is good about ergonomics. His enthusiasm was the same whether it was the first time or the one-hundredth time that he delivered the same message. He worked tirelessly for what he believed in—our discipline and helping others.

Hal was a great friend to many of us. There may be no greater tribute than when so many consider a single person as their best or closest friend. Hal’s warmth and nonjudgmental demeanor made you feel accepted for who you are. He saw the best in people and drew that out from them, whether they knew it or not. It was always a pleasure to spend time with him because of his love of life and sense of humor. Despite his many accomplishments, he had a humility that taught us not to take ourselves too seriously. Most of all, when you needed a confidant, a good listener, or some sound advice, Hal was there.

One of Hal’s boldest assertions was that we in human factors/ergonomics are uniquely qualified to simultaneously optimize human well-being and overall system performance. He insisted that we have a special role to play in shaping the future and modeled it for us. His leadership, academic breadth, practical sensibilities, and human goodness made him a great professional and wonderful person. He will be missed.

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