On Wednesday, January 17, BICSI made its annual awards presentations as part of its Winter Conference, which was held January 15-18 in Orlando, FL.
Emotions ran high as Joe O'Brien of Nelson Firestop Products received the Harry J. Pfister Award, presented annually to an individual for outstanding contributions to the telecommunications industry. Harry Pfister, a founder of BICSI's annual conference, as well as Melvin W. Anderson of the University of South Florida, presented the award to O'Brien.
In accepting the award, O'Brien, a World War II Navy veteran, emotionally recalled, "In the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, all I wanted to do was save people's lives." He served aboard the U.S.S. Bunker Hill, which was hit by two kamikaze bombers in 1945. More than 400 sailors aboard the Bunker Hill perished as a result of the attack, and only two of 42 aviation-electronics crew members survived. O'Brien was one of those two. Today, as a staunch advocate of firestopping procedures and a provider of firestopping materials, he continues his quest. "I just want to save people's lives," he said.
As was the case with each award recipient, O'Brien did not know ahead of time that he would receive the honor. Asked after the ceremony what his reaction was when he learned he was this year's recipient, he simply said, "They floored me."
Dennis Middleton and Col Browitt of BICSI's Australian District received the Larry Romig Committee Member of the Year Award. Award presenter Richard Reed, BICSI's president, cited the co-recipients for their efforts in launching and growing the Australian District. The district achieved more than 100% growth in 2000 and, according to BICSI's 2000 annual report, included 375 members at year-end.
Overall, BICSI's membership grew to 19,350 last year, including 5,548 new members in 2000.
Reed also presented the David Blythe/University of Kentucky Distinguished Service Award to Tom Rauscher. Rauscher is president of design firm ArchiTechnology, but is probably most widely recognized as a leader of the cabling industry's "Division 17" efforts. Advocates of the Division 17 undertaking want telecommunications cabling systems included in what is known as the Master Format, a set of specifications used to plan buildings construction. In the current Master Format, telecommunications cabling is addressed in a subsection of Division 16, which addresses electrical systems.