Endowed scholarship created in honor of Emery

2018-03-07 Emery Scholarship
Robert "Safety Bob" Emery, Dr.P.H. (center) with a group of
present and former colleagues and students.

HOUSTON – It was an evening of surprises, health physicist jokes and laughs as close to 100 people gathered at The Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center on Friday, March 2, to celebrate the achievements of Robert “Safety Bob” Emery, Dr.P.H., and his lasting impact on students and fellow colleagues.

Surrounded by family and friends, Emery - known for his preparedness as UTHealth’s vice president for safety, health, environment and risk management, and professor of occupational health at UTHealth School of Public Health - seemed just this once to be unprepared when colleagues announced a new endowed fellowship in his name.

“This is overwhelming,” said Emery, who has served at UTHealth for more than two decades. “Truly, this is a special day.”

The newly created Robert J. Emery Endowed Fellowship in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences will support tuition and research-related expenses for exceptional UTHealth doctoral students who are studying environmental and occupational health sciences. To date, his colleagues have raised more than $40,000 to establish the endowment.

Bruce Brown, Dr.P.H., a former member of Emery’s safety team at UTHealth who is now assistant vice president for safety and business continuity at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, spearheaded the fundraising initiative almost 2 years ago with Scott Patlovich, Dr.P.H., director for environmental health and safety at UTHealth.

“I was fortunate enough to have an office in close proximity to Bob’s for almost all of my 16 years working and going to school at UTHealth. And in that time, I was able to watch Bob mentor literally more people than I can remember including prospective students, former students, mid-career professionals and even other faculty members,” Brown said. “As I observed this ongoing leadership, I took note of the consistent positive approach and attitude to his mentorship that was truly inspiring.”

“Bob always thought that everyone was capable of tackling the rigors of graduate education as long as they were willing to accept the challenge and put forth the effort,” Brown said. “He would establish a framework of core coursework that would build upon a student’s area of interest and work toward an achievable research project that makes a practical contribution to the field of environmental and occupational health sciences.”

Throughout the evening, almost a dozen people approached the podium to share heartfelt, entertaining and funny stories celebrating the “Bob Emery College of Nuclear Knowledge” and the lasting impact Emery had on each of their lives. Patlovich told a tale of playing hockey with Emery and the remedy proposed by “Doctor Emery” when he dislocated his shoulder on the ice. One former colleague, Tyler Zerwekh, Dr.P.H., recorded a video featuring a song about his thesis and Emery’s efforts to teach him how to talk professionally, write professionally and “not be a schmuck.” “Two out of three ain’t bad,” he joked.

“I would not be where I am now without Bob’s mentorship and leadership,” said Mike Charlton, Ph.D., assistant vice president for risk management and safety at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Charlie Figari, vice president of Auxiliary Enterprises at UTHealth, said, “Truly, Bob, you have made such a difference with your constant optimism, enthusiasm and willingness to answer questions, no matter how stupid you think they may be. Somehow, you are able to make what seems complicated into something we can all be excited about and get behind. It is a joy to work with someone so passionate, calm and professional – all at the same time.”

To commemorate the evening, on behalf of the entire Safety, Health, Environment and Risk Management department, Patlovich presented matching bobble heads in Emery’s likeness to Emery and his wife, Susan Tortolero Emery, Ph.D., senior associate dean for academic and research affairs and the Allen King Professor in Public Health at UTHealth School of Public Health. There was also a slideshow featuring infamous “Selfies with Safety Bob” and other photographs taken throughout his illustrious career.

To contribute to the fellowship and for more information, contact Erin Meade, director of development, at Erin.Meade@uth.tmc.edu or 713-500-3027.

View photos of the event on Flickr here.

— Written by Meredith Raine