The AIHA-Upper Midwest Section honors and remembers John Ambrose Pendergrass, Jr. (Aug. 31, 1925 – Dec. 7, 2017). AIHA-UMS has endowed a scholarship in John’s name. Criteria and Application, visit: AIHA scholarship

Scholarship Recipients

2020 - 2021 Puleng Moshele, Puleng Moshele, University of Minnesota
2019 - 2020, Katherine Serrano, University of Minnesota
2018 - 2019, Hannah M. Kaup, University of Minnesota

After serving in the navy during World War II and the Korean War, John began his industrial hygiene career in the early 1950s. John served the IH profession generously by his leadership. He served as a member of the AIHA board of directors (1967–70) and AIHA president (1974–75). John also was a director for the American Board of Industrial Hygiene and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. John worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority, Boeing Corporation, American Cyanamid, and then he led the IH program at 3M (1964–86). John left 3M when he was appointed the assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA by President Reagan, serving in this role from 1986 until 1989. Afterwards, John worked as a consultant and avidly attended AIHA meetings until the year before his death at age 92.

John is warmly remembered by his colleagues. Several remembrances include:

Synergist remembrance: Click Here 

Steve Gutmann, CIH, CPE, FAIHA:

“When I joined 3M, John Pendergrass had already moved on from founding the industrial hygiene program at 3M to other opportunities in the organization.  My interactions with him were few, but his reputation was well established and stories of his accomplishments flowed easily in conversations with colleagues who had worked for him.  A short time later, John moved on to become the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.  That was followed by a very active “retirement” that allowed him to rub elbows with a wide range of high-level industrial clients and regulatory bodies in a number of countries.  It wasn’t until I started to become more active in AIHA, finally joining the Board of Directors in 2003, that I had the privilege of getting to know John better.  To be honest, I was a bit intimidated meeting and talking with such a well-accomplished leader in the profession.  But, John had a way about him that was very warm, approachable and energizing.  We had many wide ranging and engaging conversations about the profession and ways to foster innovative thinking and advance the science.  In time, it became quite clear he had three very unique qualities: a real love of the profession, a strong desire to promote it in any way he could, and finally, a humility that made him a natural mentor of young professionals.  You don't see that set of qualities very often and it makes it all the more special to have known and been inspired by him.  He will be deeply missed, but his example is one I hope will inspire others to do well and still find ways “give back” to the next generation.”

Bill Heim, CIH, CSP, FAIHA:

“John A. Pendergrass will be missed not just by those who knew him, but also by those touched by his advocacy for industrial hygiene and safety.  John was above all a champion.  He was a champion for starting and staffing the industrial hygiene department at 3M, which at one point employed a large percentage of the certified industrial hygienists in the state.  He was a champion for industrial hygiene at the AIHA local section and at the national level where he served as AIHA president. He encouraged others to get involved in the Association and to contribute their diverse talents to its success.  He championed the development of industrial hygienists through serving the AIH Foundation.  And, he championed industrial hygiene practice as Assistant Secretary of Labor and head of OSHA.

Nearly everyone who met John came away feeling that they had acquired a personal friend in high places.  He was sincerely interested in the people who worked for him and who he met through the profession, showing real empathy for their careers and personal lives.

Mostly, we will miss his charm and smile, which could light up a room.”

Alan Johnston, CIH:

“I had the privilege of working with John Pendergrass when he was the Assistant Medical Director at 3M.  It was my first job as an industrial hygienist, so I had a lot to learn about the profession.  John was an excellent mentor.  He was kind, welcoming, and always supportive. Combined with that he was dedicated to developing the professionalism of those of us who worked for him, as well as dedicated to advancing the recognition and value of field of industrial hygiene.  On a day to day basis he was always a gentleman.  That doesn’t necessarily translate into effective leadership, but in his case it certainly did.  He had a tremendous knack of identifying and effectively using teaching moments.  He would take a specific workplace scenario in which we were involved, confirm actions we had taken or planned to take, open a discussion about what to do next by accentuating good ideas we had, then help us draw our own conclusions about how to become more effective in achieving our goals.  It didn’t take long to understand that he wanted us to be fully competent at monitoring and assessing workplace conditions, but more importantly he wanted us to learn we could have far greater impact by helping incorporate industrial hygiene fundamentals into systems, processes, and decision-making throughout the organization.  The best results don’t come from knowing the right answers.  They come from knowing how, when, and where to most effectively communicate.  After John and I each headed off to different challenges in different places we remained friends.  When we did have the chance to get together, his welcoming smile, friendly greetings, and remembrance of personal and family connections always felt good.  His spirit and leadership will live on through the many people he touched.”

Sandy Morey, CIH:

“I have to smile when I think of John. He approved my hire at 3M as a green graduate from the U of M Master degree, NIOSH supported, Occupational Health program. I was the second woman hired into the 3M Industrial Hygiene department and I felt pretty special. John was always approachable and a respectful problem solver. I remember a situation where higher management was called to help find a solution to a problem I had identified. The presence of the big wigs was a bit nerve racking for me, but John was there to facilitate and lead us to an appropriate path of resolution. Twenty years after I had left the department, we were able to reminisce.

John was a mentor, leader, and ethical administrator. I am proud to have known him. I am so happy the endowed scholarship through AIHF will carry his name.”


AIHA - Upper Midwest Section is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. AIHA-UMS, P.O. Box 13717, Roseville, MN 55113
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