December 9, 2020
For more than a century, individuals working for UL have made the world a safer place. They've contributed through the development of science-based processes, procedures and systems that make up today's standards. While UL honors each and every contribution, the company took its commitment to scientific leadership to a new level when it established the William Henry Merrill Society in 2006.
Named for UL’s founder William Henry Merrill Jr., the society’s members advance safety by sharing their experiences, expertise and passion both within and without the organization. The society's knowledge runs across industries and disciplines, ranging from the traditional — electrical and mechanical engineering — to the new, such as functional safety, sustainability and cybersecurity. Present membership includes more than 120 Distinguished Members of Technical Staff and more than 25 Corporate Fellows.
Tapping into the society’s know-how is one way UL’s customers benefit from the group’s proficiencies. Early into the pandemic, a longtime UL customer reached out to UL’s COVID task force. The customer needed cloth face coverings for its 200,000 plus employees but not just any face covering would do. They wanted to make sure science stood behind whatever covering they purchased.
Taskforce member Barbara Guthrie, the society’s chair at the time, had helped facilitate requests like this in the past. She issued an urgent call to action to the society’s members who quickly created not only a list of requirements but a product prototype plus performance evaluation as well.
"It's amazing what one call can do," Guthrie said. "It speaks volumes about our commitment to UL's mission of working for a safer world.”
Society expertise runs across industries and disciplines
The society selects members by analyzing each nominee’s previous job experience, technical achievements, publications, patents, professional affiliations and overall contributions to UL's mission to promote safe, secure and sustainable living and working environments for people by the application of science, hazard-based safety engineering and data acumen.
Collectively, the society’s credentials include 69 patents, more than 15 Ph.D.’s, and over one-third of its members hold advanced master’s degrees. Induction into the society as a Corporate Fellow is a lifetime honor with certain benefits. Retired members have an open invitation to participate in society meetings, attend UL’s annual meeting and actively participate in speaking engagements, knowledge sharing and mentoring opportunities.
“The society gives credit to those who have made profound technical advancements,” Guthrie said. “Selecting new members is a rigorous process which limits the number of inductees each year.”
With expertise running across industries and disciplines — ranging from traditional electrical and mechanical engineering to functional safety, sustainability and cybersecurity — members are often asked to serve as keynote speakers at conferences. Society members also actively participate in numerous technical panels worldwide.
There are 400 Standards Technical Panels (STP) by which Underwriters Laboratories, UL's nonprofit affiliate, develops and maintains its Standards. UL Society members also sit on over 463 committees, participate in over 202 stakeholder groups and hold over 89 leadership positions within those committees and groups.
"Our members are more than subject matter experts," said Tom Lanzisero, incoming chair for the William Henry Merrill Society. "They're pioneers and innovators who represent the top technical, science-based expertise and thought leadership in a global company of over 12,000 employees."
Preparing the next generation of safety scientists and engineers
A key part of the society’s responsibility is to continue to learn, apply, and transfer knowledge to the next generation of safety scientists and engineers. Active mentorship of UL’s technical staff helps each employee grow to better serve customers and help solve their critical challenges, particularly in mitigating risk.
The society’s accomplishments are impressive here as well. Altogether, the group shared their knowledge and expertise globally this past year by engaging in over 720 presentations and 3812 hours of formal training through universities, industry meetings, internal lunch-n-learns and technical courses.
"Our customers are on the forefront of innovation,” Lanzisero said. “They design and manufacture products from materials to components, devices and systems. By working closely with UL's technical staff, we help prevent and reduce the loss of life, health and property."
Mentoring includes activities such as the society’s tech talk series where members educate staff on emerging technologies, products and applications in science, engineering and other disciplines. Participating in these talks helps UL staff better understand the shifting landscape to support all stakeholders, including customers, regulatory authorities and STP members.
"There is great value with the William Henry Merrill Society," Lanzisero said. "We engage our colleagues and diverse customers in more than 100 countries representing 60% of the Global 500. Our mission-driven, science-based focus helps solve their critical challenges."
Learn more about the William Henry Merrill Society, its members and activities.