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Robert H. Kirk Inducted into Educators Hall of Honor

Portrait photo of Robert H. Kirk

Robert H. Kirk

Robert H. Kirk joined the University of Tennessee in 1967 as an associate professor in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation becoming the first full-time African American faculty member in UTK history.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University and earned four graduate degrees, including DHS (doctor of health and safety), from Indiana University. Dr. Kirk did postgraduate work at Michigan State and Stanford’s University Graduate School of Business. While at UTK, he served as the head for the Department of Safety (a precursor to the department of Public Health) and oversaw the university’s Safety Center. He retired from the university in 2003.

Over his long career, Kirk left a lasting impact in the fields of Public Health and Safety. He served as a consultant to such institutions as the Tennessee Department of Education, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute among others.

In 1978 Kirk was given an award by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, recognizing his wide spectrum of activities in and on behalf of the association. In November 1992, he became the first African American professional and the first Tennessean inducted into the Safety and Health Hall of Fame. In 1993, he was one of three recipients of the Honor Award from the Southern Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Dance. Dr. Kirk also served as vice president and president of the US National Safety Council.

Locally, Kirk was also a member of the board of directors of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Covenant Health. Additionally, he became the first African-American to serve as commissioner of the Knoxville Utilities Board.