T. Michael O’Connor, founder of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center and respected chemical engineer, passed away on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. O’Connor served as a board of director member of StarRotor Corporation, a startup company founded to commercialize revolutionary gerotor technology from Texas A&M University, for more than 18 years and as board of director member for Heat Transfer Research, Inc., a global leader in process heat transfer and heat exchanger technology, for more than 15 years.
O’Connor founded the process safety center in 1995 in memory of his late wife, Mary Kay O’Connor, a chemical engineer and operations superintendent killed in an explosion on October 23, 1989 at the Phillips Petroleum Complex in Pasadena, Texas. In addition to serving as the founding sponsor, he contributed to process safety education, the safety engineering program and the annual symposium speaker as a research associate for the center.
After experiencing the tragic loss of his wife, O’Connor became a champion of process safety and was passionate in bringing about positive change for industries exposed to hazardous operations, materials and chemicals. By establishing the process safety center, he prioritized bringing process safety knowledge to the academic education and professional experiences engineering students had at Texas A&M and beyond through industry partnership.
He carried out this mission boldly, supporting efforts led by the center’s inaugural executive director and process safety pioneer, the late Dr. Sam Mannan, to create professional education and training courses, establish the center’s internationally renowned symposia and highlight the importance of integrating the practice of process safety to help mitigate and prevent avoidable tragedies.
Within the last two decades, the center O’Connor founded has supported the education of more than 3,000 chemical engineering students, initiated a consortium of more than 35 private companies committed to personnel safety and facilitated the growth of process safety engineering and continuing education courses offered for professionals.
O’Connor’s passion and commitment to ensure all individuals in processing industries have access to resources and training in the philosophy of safety will live on through the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center.