John Henshaw opened Safety 2013 with these names, a powerful reminder of EHS professionals’ mission to protect workers’ lives. Hall, Hennessey, and McDonald are just a few examples of the thousands of workers who die on the job site each year. For these fallen workers and their families, Henshaw and the ASSE Foundation created the Family Scholarship Fund.
The Family Scholarship Fund (FSF) debuted at Safety 2013. One year later, as the fund balance stands at more than $100,000 and the first recipient has been selected, Henshaw is optimistic about how far this program can reach.
“Our goal is to keep raising money so we can keep giving it out,” he said. “Families all over the country need help and our community ought to stand behind them.
“I am very proud of the strides our profession has taken in increasing safety and health for millions of workers,” he said, “but I grieve for those we have lost and I grieve for the families.”
This grief, as well as Henshaw’s sense of responsibility to the workers’ community, led him to contact ASSE Foundation Manager Mary Goranson in October 2012. Families have many needs after the loss of a loved one, but Henshaw wanted to focus on education, one of the most crucial elements of long-term stability in a person’s life. The Foundation’s experience and success in scholarship management drew Henshaw in. He asked Goranson whether they could do something for the families of the fallen workers. “I have devoted 25 years of my professional life to workplace safety, and I had already worked with some of these families to set up memorial scholarships,” said Goranson. “I know these stories, I know how many tragedies happen, and when John came to me, I knew the Board of Trustees would want to take this project on.”
Working quickly, Henshaw put together a team of FSF Champions to raise money and awareness while Goranson developed the program structure and administration. Henshaw started the fund with a personal donation of $10,000, which both ASSE and the ASSE Foundation matched. “We were immensely grateful for the outpouring of support toward the Family Scholarship Fund,” said Board Chair Fay Feeney.
The call goes out
Henshaw sent out the call for support at Safety 2013, saying, “We cannot bring the lives back, but we can do our part to ease the loss.” The Worcester County Chapter held a golf outing for the FSF, and Murray State Student Section member Carrie Stindt coordinated a fun run. Global shipping and logistics experts UPS gave the fund its largest boost yet with a gift of $25,000.
The FSF application opened in July 2013, and in November of that year, the ASSE Foundation selected Erika Clasby as the first Family Scholarship Fund recipient. Erika is a straight-A student pursuing engineering in Atlanta. Her father lost his life while doing routine utility maintenance for a power company. The Clasbys join the ASSE community along with thousands of dedicated safety workers around the globe and other families touched by similar incidents, like the Terrance M. Hennessy family.
Terrance Hennessy lost his life in March 2008 while conducting a site visit at a construction site in Miami, FL. A crane collapsed on the jobsite, seriously injuring four workers and fatally injuring two, including Hennessy. He left behind sons Michael and Thomas and daughter Kristine. Having coped with their own tragedy, the Hennessys understand the challenges the Clasbys face. “We know how incredibly hard a situation like this is, and we want to help other families that share this burden,” said Michael. “We hope this program honors the memory of our father and those lost.”
The FSF has expanded the reach of the Foundation’s constituents. Said Feeney, “Our programs have focused on workers and strategically building the profession through programs directed at ASSE members and students. With the Family Scholarship Fund, we are proud to reach out to a new branch of our family. These families are and forever will be a part of our community.”
The ASSE Foundation exists to provide programs that advance the safety profession. They provide scholarships and grants, assistance with accreditation, and cutting-edge research. The Family Scholarship Fund provides college funding for families affected by a workplace tragedy. The hope is that these scholarships — open to spouses and children of those who have died from a workplace incident — will minimize the financial impact of the loss while encouraging continuing education. To learn more, visit http://www.asse.org/foundation/fsf/.