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In memoriam: Mel First

mel first 470x313Mel First was a practical man who valued research for the solutions it provides to issues in the real world. Not content simply to identify public health problems, Mel’s life purpose was to solve them. He conducted groudbreaking research on cleaning the air of pollutants, and methods he developed–some of which are still used today–helped factory workers and people living near industrial plants breathe easier. Mel’s students and colleagues will remember him as a man with firm opinions that were rooted in his commitment to protect public health through the application of sound engineering principles. Those who shared his principles and who had earned his respect through the quality of their work could count on his help and support. He always made time for his students and they were devoted to him. The Melvin W. First Fellowship Fund, which supports doctoral students in environmental health engineering, honors Mel’s many contributions to the School and to the field.

The above tribute was written by three individuals who were students of Mel First and contributed to his tribute fund: Steve Rudnick, SM ’70, SD ’78, lecturer on industrial hygiene engineering at Harvard School of Public Health; David Leith, SD ’75, professor and associate chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of North Carolina School of Public Health; and Douglas Dockery, SM ’74, SD ’79, professor of environmental epidemiology and chair of the Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health. Rudnick and Leith were students of Mel First.