Chemicals play a key role in today’s high-tech world. The chemical industry is linked to every technologically advanced industry, and only a handful of the goods and services we enjoy on a daily basis would exist without essential chemical products. Furthermore, chemicals are a big business in Texas, where the state’s chemical complex is the largest in the world. The industry provides jobs for more than 85,000 Texans, and the state’s chemical products are shipped worldwide at a value of $15 billion dollars annually. The use of chemicals is a double-edged sword. Safe use creates a healthier economy and a higher standard of living. Unsafe use threatens our lives, our businesses and ultimately our world. For this reason, working and living safely with chemicals are the ultimate focus of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center.
Mary Kay O’Connor
The Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center was established in 1995 in memory of Mary Kay O’Connor. Ms. O’Connor was an operations superintendent who was killed in an explosion on October 23, 1989 at the Phillips Petroleum Complex in Pasadena, TX. Ms. O’Connor graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in chemical engineering and from the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Master of Business Administration.
Dr. Sam Mannan
From 1997-2018, Dr. Sam Mannan, a world-renowned expert in process safety, was the founding executive director of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, then pursued graduate education and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Oklahoma. A process safety pioneer, Dr. Mannan’s work influenced the entire chemical engineering industry in the U.S. and worldwide and directly led to industry’s adoption of more rigorous safety standards throughout his more than 20 years with the center. After his passing on September 11, 2018, the center strives to continue fulfilling his legacy as a driving force behind process safety education and awareness.
T. Michael O’Connor
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.