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Remembering Dr. Daniel Boatright

Daniel Boatright


Always in our thoughts. Forever in our hearts.

In Memoriam 

Dr. Daniel Boatright 

December 20, 1951 to April 6, 2023 

Dr. Daniel Boatright was the epitome of an interdisciplinary researcher. Over his lengthy environmental health career, he worked with individuals from a multitude of sectors, backgrounds, states, and countries. As a beloved and respected member of the Hudson College of Public Health family, his passing leaves a significant void in our community. Boatright’s commitment and dedication to his students and research were unparalleled. During his twenty-six years of teaching, he directed more than 50 master of science students and 18 doctor of philosophy and doctor of public health students. 

Boatright earned a master of science in environmental health engineering and a doctor of philosophy in environmental systems management from the University of Oklahoma. He held Visiting Scientist credentials at Los Alamos National Laboratory for over 15 years, was a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom, and was a Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society member. Before joining the University of Oklahoma in 1990, he spent over 15 years in the private sector, working on environmental health engineering projects at local, state, and federal agencies (including the United States Public Health Service and the Indian Health Service).  

During his tenure at the HCOPH, Dr. Boatright served as senior associate dean and Presidential Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health; directed the Public Health Preparedness and Terrorism Response graduate program; and served as the principal investigator and director of the Southwest Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center and director of the Public Health Training Center. He was skilled at putting his research into practice, leading Medical Reserve Corps teams during the 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing and the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.  

Dr. Boatright retired from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in July 2016. Yet, he remained committed to improving public health in our state. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Dr. Boatright came out of retirement to advise the Oklahoma State Department of Health. His decades of experience and wisdom made him an incredible asset during this difficult time. Dr. Boatright will be remembered as an exemplary colleague, professor, mentor, and friend. 

In light of his decades of service and commitment to teaching the next generation of environmental health scientists, a scholarship has been developed in his honor. An anonymous donor is MATCHING ALL GIFTS to this fund, so your impact is DOUBLED. If you would like to contribute or learn more, please visit

Stories and Memories 

Dr. Evan Floyd, Associate Professor, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, OUHSC 

I remember Dr. Boatright’s generosity in welcoming me as a new faculty member to the department.  He invited me to his house for a nice dinner, served various kinds of fancy wine, and talked about the similarities between beer brewing and wine venting—he was an accomplished vintner.   

I also remember that when I came for my faculty candidate interview, he had a couple of drinks during appetizer and dinner time, so when the server came at the end of the meal and asked if anyone cared for dessert or a nightcap, I was emboldened to order a Gentleman Jack whiskey neat. Dr. Boatright gave me a slightly surprised but approving look as if he were saying, “Nice choice; I didn’t expect that from you.” Nobody else ordered ANYTHING.  So, I sipped the drink, tried not to let on that it was too hot for me, pretended that I was enjoying it, and tried to converse with everyone who was forced to wait for me to finish. That was pretty funny! We laughed about it during lunch after I joined the OEH Department.     


Dr. David Johnson, Emeritus Faculty, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, OUHSC 

Dan was already on the OEH faculty when I joined in the fall of 1991; he preceded me by about a year. As the two “new guys,” we naturally talked a lot; as it turned out, we had much in common. We were within one year of the same age, both were environmental engineers (Dan was a self-taught engineer and a good one), and both were practicing professionals for 17-20 years before joining academia. He worked with an engineering firm in the Oklahoma City/Norman area for 17 years during the 1970s and ’80s when the government was funding a lot of water supply and wastewater treatment system construction pursuant to the Clean Water Act. That was where he developed his considerable engineering skills. Dan had significant experience on large projects and project management, which informed his teaching content and approach. He often referred to those earlier times as “before I took a vow of poverty and joined academia.” Dan was big on having students work as part of a team with only broad guidance from “the Boss” and with firm deliverables and deadlines—a kind of “sink or swim” philosophy mirroring real-world practice; it was incredibly effective. 

Dan was very proud of his heritage, which included being a card-carrying member of the Cherokee Nation. He kept a framed page from the Cherokee newspaper, written in Sequoyah’s Cherokee Syllabary, on his wall at home. Dan’s full name was Daniel T. Boatright VII (that’s right–the Seventh), with family roots in Texas going back many generations.  

Dan was an avid in-land sailor and owned a 25-foot Catalina named after his daughter Jennifer. (Yep, it was named “JennyB,” just like the one in the movie Forest Gump.) I went sailing with him several times. Dan spoke of many days and nights spent on the boat in Thunderbird Lake while he worked on his dissertation. He told me he had a bad case of “31-foot fever,” meaning he really wanted a much bigger boat. Unfortunately, his nice boat was sunk with many others by a tornado that hit the marina some years ago, and he never replaced it.  

At some time before joining academia, Dan took flight training and obtained a commercial pilot’s license. He told me he flew cargo mostly at night with a friend who later owned and operated the Thunderbird Marina. The cargo was often human remains, so that must have been interesting. Along with “31-foot fever,” Dan also yearned to own—or at least fly—a Stearman biplane. “If I can start it, I can fly it,” he would say. However, his flying days were over by the time we met.  

Dan had a very good ear and could mimic many different accents. I didn’t realize he could sing until I learned of his involvement with his church choir. However, his interest in community theater was always clear, and he became a productive playwright and performer after retirement from OU. I guess the extra free time gave his left-brain side more opportunity to flex.  

I will forever cherish my friendship with Dan and the many years we spent teaching in the OEH Department. It was a real pleasure knowing and working with him.  


Kathleen Shaver, Retired Director, Environment and Supply Chain Innovation, Apple 

Dan Boatright, or "Doctor B" as he was fondly called by so many of us, was a defining force in shaping a generation of environmental health professionals, including myself. He taught his many students to always ground themselves in sound science, to deeply respect diversity of opinion, and to foster passionate debate when problem-solving. 

Doctor B was dedicated to his students' developing knowledge and sound judgment, resilience, and confidence to tackle complex problems. You knew that he found joy in his work every day. I fondly remember a tin box called "the answer fund" that he kept in his office. If you asked him to validate your answer, he would tell you it cost a dollar. If you whined about how challenging the assignment was or claimed you didn't know where to start, it might cost you two dollars. After making your deposit, he would Socratically guide you to answer your question and do so with conviction. At the end of the semester, Dr. B would pull out the tin and host memorable lunches where his students would gather, laugh about what we learned, and ponder who most frequently contributed to the tin. 

His risk communication course was a master class in understanding the complexity of the human condition. He intuitively understood the importance of respecting those we serve as public health professionals, acknowledging stakeholder concerns, and encouraging his students to listen first to find solutions. To this day, I use the techniques he espoused, recalling his phrase, "Trust opens the door for science to be heard." 

He often said that demonstrating competency in the academic material was just the ticket to start our journey as occupational and environmental health professionals. Mastery of our profession would come when we practiced our craft, learned from our failures, and stuck with it to become a mentor to others. Dr. B will forever be an example of such mastery.