Dennis L. Price, a professor emeritus of industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech, died Jan. 8. 

Born in Alberta, Canada, on Oct. 24, 1930, Price was known for his expertise in safety and human factors engineering. He founded and directed the Safety Projects Laboratory at Virginia Tech and developed occupational safety and health curriculum that is still being taught today. 

After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1948, Price went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in religion from Bob Jones University; a bachelor's and master’s degree in divinity from California Baptist Seminary; a master’s degree in psychology from California State University at Long Beach; and his Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University. 

During the earliest stages of his career, Price worked as a research associate for Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, and as a technical staff member of the autonetics division for Rockwell International in Anaheim, California.

Hired as an assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s industrial systems engineering department in 1974, he advanced to become a full professor, director of the Safety Projects Laboratory, and coordinator of the Human Factors Engineering area before being granted the title of professor emeritus in 1996.

He was an active member of several leading professional societies, including the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, the American Society of Safety Professionals, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and the International System Safety Society. He was also a member of the industrial engineering honor society Alpha Pi Mu.

Price received many national awards, among them the 1992 Educator of the Year Award from the International Systems Safety Society and the Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

He notably served two terms on the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. His first term was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1989, and his second term was reappointed by President George H.W. Bush. 

“Dr. Price had a significant influence on my career path starting in 1975, because as a sophomore, I fortunately took his course on Introduction to Human Factors Engineering,” said John Grado Professor John G. Casali. “He was a masterful, compassionate instructor. We had many stimulating office conversations, and his course led to my pursuit of both my graduate degrees in this field and subsequent work as a professor in industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech. As a member of our faculty, Dennis was a superb colleague, having founded the Safety Projects Laboratory and developed the sub-concentration in occupational safety and health in the late 1970s, both of which continue to this day.”

Dennis Price and Debbie Shelor in the safety projects lab in the 1980s
Dennis Price and office assistant Debbie Shelor working in the Safety Projects Laboratory in the 1980s. Virginia Tech photo

Price published three books on theology and co-authored several educational publications, including "Occupational Safety Management and Engineering" in 2000 and "Transportation of Hazardous Materials" in 1983, and he contributed chapters to several books and articles to scholarly journals. Additionally, he was a reviewer in his field and an editorial board member for the professional journal Human Factors.

Price was bi-vocational, having served the American Baptist Convention churches in Bellflower, California; La Mirada, California; Autonetics Aerospace in Anaheim, California; and Martin-Marietta Aerospace in Orlando, Florida. During his tenure at Virginia Tech, he filled in pulpit vacancies for the Southern Baptist Convention.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Barbara Shelton Price. He is survived by his daughter, Denice Lynn Tsugawa, and his son, Philip Walter Price. He also leaves three grandchildren, Jessica J. Kotler, Allison C. Thomas, and Keanu R. Thomas; one great-grandchild, Ren Kotler; a sister, June W. Graham; and a brother, Roy C. Price.

Share this story