July 27, 2010

Ritzel to receive association’s highest award

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Dale O. Ritzel, health education professor emeritus at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and long-time director of its Safety Center, will receive the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association’s highest honor on Wednesday, July 28, in St. Louis. The Richard Kaywood Memorial Award, given annually since 1985, recognizes sustained and substantial contributions to the field, profession and association and carries with it a $500 prize.

Over the course of his career, Ritzel has published 150 articles, received research grants totaling more than $20 million and overseen the graduate work of close to 100 students. Since his 2006 “retirement,” he has twice won the National Safety Council’s top research award.

Donald L. Smith, former colleague and past president of the association, nominated Ritzel for the award. In addition to Ritzel’s many other achievements, Smith said his friend had helped bring safety education into the electronic age.

“He’s been at the forefront in using the latest technology -- he’s one of the most innovative,” said Smith in a telephone interview from his Lansing, Mich., home. “He’s really shown the way for computer applications in teaching, evaluation and research, but he’s one of the most modest individuals you will ever meet. I have tremendous respect for him.”

Ritzel, a three-degree graduate of SIUC, began his teaching career in 1965 as a driver education instructor at the high school run by the University’s education college. He joined the teaching faculty of what was then the Department of Health Education in 1966, serving a five-year stint as chair before becoming the Safety Center’s second director.

Ritzel has held numerous leadership positions within the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, including several terms as its research division chair, vice chair and secretary. He also has served as president of the American Academy of Safety Education, an organization in which he holds fellow status.