A young Richard
HFES Fellow and Past-President Richard J. Hornick, a distinguished leader of the HFES and of our profession, passed away on July 11, 2021.
Following completion of his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at Purdue University in 1960, Richard held a number of leadership positions related to human factors design with organizations that included North American Aviation, Litton Industries, and Hughes Aircraft Company. His work supported efforts in areas such as Navy ship design, command and control systems, and the Apollo space program.
Richard during later days
In 1980-82, Richard was appointed to a select study team under contract to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a result of the Three Mile Island accident and was one of seven scientists investigating human factors and safety in nuclear power plant control rooms. In addition to his notable career of almost 30 years in industry, Richard was a nationally recognized expert witness, providing testimony pertaining to human factors in areas such as personal injury, product liability, and vehicular accidents. Over the course of his impressive forensics career, he provided analysis, depositions, and/or testimony in over 200 cases and also worked to better inform his colleagues about the practice of forensics. With respect to the latter, he authored or co-authored multiple conference/panel presentations, proceedings articles, and journal articles, and also co-authored a text entitled Human Factors Issues in Handgun Safety and Forensics in 2008.
Some of Richard’s proudest achievements and memorable professional moments resulted from working on the Apollo space program. He helped develop the astronaut testing protocols for their selection and preparation for space. In 2019 he was asked to make a presentation at the Merrill Gardens retirement living center in Monterey with his sons present, on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Richard wore his commemorative NASA Space Team t-shirt (only given to actual team members), and was delighted to be asked about his role in the Apollo program.
He was engaging, humorous, and his recall for names, dates and numbers was truly amazing. It reflected his passion and pride for what he and his teams had accomplished in those nascent years of human space travel. Today we have the benefit of experience with numerous missions and the Space Station. We take for granted the uncertainties those early human factors professionals had to consider. They knew little about the effects impact, isolation, acceleration, and vibration had on humans. They were the first to address questions about hygiene, tool design, comfort, and even whether humans could swallow food in weightless environments. Moreover, Richard and the teams were human systems integrators in a complex system. This is one of the hallmarks of our profession.
Richard and the HFES Executive Council
Richard was an active and vital leader within the HFES and contributed enormously to the Society through extensive service that spanned a period of almost 40 years. He was elected to all three major Society offices, including President, Secretary-Treasurer, and At-Large Member of the Executive Council, the latter for a remarkable six terms. All told, Richard was a member of the Executive Council for 24 years, and is the only person in the history of the Society to serve on the Council for that length of time. He also chaired the HFES Forensics Professional Group that he helped to establish. Besides his service in elected offices, Richard held numerous additional leadership positions, chairing, for example, nine major Society level committees or boards. He also served as a member of the editorial board of Human Factors for 17 years and as Editor of the HFES Bulletin.
Richard’s contributions extended well beyond his accomplishments in formal leadership roles, and reflected his outstanding personal qualities. He was, for instance, a welcoming presence as well as a mentor to younger members of the Society. He was also a marvelous colleague who worked easily and effectively with others and who cared deeply about his many friends within the Society and the profession.
Very fittingly, and in recognition of his leadership and immense contributions to the HFES, Richard received the 1994 Arnold M. Small President’s Distinguished Service Award, the Society’s highest honor that recognizes career-long contributions that have brought honor to the profession and the Society.
In addition to his professional and Societal contributions, Richard led a full and vibrant life. Although born and raised in Wisconsin, he fell in love with Southern California and the beachside community of Dana Point. He loved traveling, deep-sea fishing with his sons, and all things Pacific in activities, food, and art. His beloved wife, Mona, died several years ago. He missed her and mourned her greatly until his own passing.
Richard at the Dana Point Marina
Richard was truly one-of-a-kind. An accomplished and dedicated leader, he was a major force within the Society and our profession over the course of his remarkable career. Even more importantly, he was both a highly respected colleague and a wonderful friend. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him will miss him terribly.
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