Kenneth Mossman (’70, ’73)

Category: Alumni Professional Achievement

2014 Alumni Professional Achievement Award Winner

The US Senate confirmed Kenneth Mossman in 2013 to serve as a presidential appointee to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a five-member executive branch agency with safety oversight of all US nuclear weapons facilities. Just two months into one of the most prestigious appointments that an expert in his field can receive, Mossman died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack in Washington, DC.

Prior to his appointment, Mossman was a professor of radiation biology at Arizona State University. He was the founding chair of the Department of Radiation Science at the Georgetown University Graduate School, where he taught from 1980 to 1990. He was also an administrative judge for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board from 2008 to 2013.

Mossman credited UT with laying a strong foundation for his career in health physics and radiation biology. He received an MS (1970) and a PhD (1973), both in radiation biology, from the Institute of Radiation Biology within the joint UT/ORNL School of Biomedical Sciences. He was considered an international expert and a sought-after speaker on the effects of radiation exposure, having authored or coauthored eight books, more than 60 scientific papers, and hundreds of book chapters, conference proceedings, and government publications. After the tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiitchi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, Mossman was called upon to provide his expertise.

Throughout his career, Mossman was always actively engaged with his community. As president of the Health Physics Society, Mossman was instrumental in obtaining a $250,000 education grant from the US Department of Energy to fund science teacher workshops around the country. He also served as director of the largest high school science fair in Arizona.

Mossman and his late wife, Blaire, who received a BA degree in French from UT in 1971, were generous philanthropists to the UT College of Arts and Sciences, on whose advisory board he served for 11 years. They established the Kenneth and Blaire Mossman Endowed Professorship to encourage biomedical research efforts of faculty members with close connections to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Their estate commitment will significantly increase the endowment for the Mossman Professorship and establish an endowed scholarship for students of Romance languages in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures. It will also fund two campus initiatives: a distinguished lecture series and scholarships for students participating in the Ready for the World Program.

In September 2018, UT opened the Ken and Blaire Mossman Building, a new space for the Departments of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology, Psychology, and Nutrition. The space emphasizes research and features multiple student work areas, reflecting that the Mossmans met each other in a UT student work area in 1968.

Kenneth Mossman