Distinguished Alumni Awards

Distinguished Achievement Award

Rayford H. Boyett (58C)

Alumni Awards - Rayford BoyettThe United States is safer today thanks to Rayford Boyett (58C). After the country’s worst commercial nuclear disaster, Boyett’s expertise in the field of nuclear radiation and offsite emergency preparedness led to innovative security measures still in place today.

As administrator of the Nuclear Radiation Safety Program for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region Four at the time of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Reactor accident in 1979, Boyett was charged with assisting FEMA Region Three in containment efforts and developing a response plan for future nuclear emergencies. According to Jack D. Richardson, Retired Director of Field Services for FEMA Region Four, “Dr. Boyett’s advice and work in this effort were simply outstanding.”

In response to the disaster, he wrote and edited the technical nuclear safety sections of the “Federal Guidance on Offsite Radiological Emergency Preparedness.” The analysis included a region-wide rapid plan for analyzing and reporting radiation damage and assessments using computers. “The document became the primary guideline for state and local governments to use in developing plans to respond to nuclear emergencies around fixed nuclear facilities,” Richardson said.

Boyett further organized and conducted professional courses offered by FEMA, including a special nuclear radiation disaster preparedness course sponsored by the White House. The course was designed to assure that officials of government, including the president, were able to survive any nuclear confrontation the nation might experience.

Prior to working with FEMA, Boyett built his career as a research and applied health physicist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. According to Gerald Boyd, retired General Manager for the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office, “Dr. Boyett is a pioneer of sorts and an extraordinary man. His early work led to one success after another in the areas of nuclear radiation safety and health physics. Much of his research and development work in those areas can be considered groundbreaking.”

He developed equipment, including a patented automatic alpha particle counting device, and processes that set the standards for worker protection in highly dangerous radiologically contaminated
environments. He later served as professor of physics and nuclear technology at Chattanooga State Technical Community College.

Boyett describes himself as simply “an agrarian boy from southwest Georgia who decided to major in physics,” adding, “that degree led me to where I am today.”

Since retiring, Boyett has had time to further develop his lifelong interest in music. He currently writes and plays classic country, bluegrass and other genres at numerous festivals throughout Georgia and Florida and received recognition from the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

He also served as a member of the project committee for his 50th Berry reunion and was instrumental in creating a second endowed scholarship for the class.

"I feel blessed, humbled and fortunate that challenging opportunities were presented to me and Berry gave me the foundation to be prepared for those challenges,” Boyett said.