When it came to teaching engineers about RF safety, few could hold a candle — or an RF monitor — to Richard Strickland. During his long career, first with Narda and later his own company RF Safety Solutions, Strickland instructed thousands of engineers and managers on topics related to RF radiation safety and compliance.
Strickland died in 2018 at age 73, following a long battle with cancer. Friends and family members recalled his personal and professional life for Radio World.
Even as a child, Strickland enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked. His formal education in electronics began when he was in the Coast Guard. He served as an Electronics Technician I and got additional training in ships’ radar. During his tour of duty, he served in the Pacific during the Vietnam war.
He continued his education when he left the service, earning his bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Massachusetts, Bridgewater. He went on to earn his MBA from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
Strickland honed his skills in RF engineering and discovered the parts that he really liked by working for several companies, initially designing radomes for antennas. His last employer was Narda; there, he worked for ten years as director of business development.
In that position, he would determine which products were developed and their performance characteristics. He was program manager for the Nardalert XT RF personal monitor; for his work on that product, he received an R&D 100 Award from a research magazine.
At Narda, he initiated the development of RF radiation safety courses and led them. Topics ranged from basic employee awareness seminars to in-depth application-specific courses. Audiences included environmental health and safety professionals, engineers, technicians, professional consulting engineers (PEs) and senior managers of major organizations. In all, he taught over 400 public and private seminars on RF radiation safety.
Strickland was both a featured speaker and member of radio frequency radiation panels at the National Association of Broadcasters, the Radio Club of America and the International Wireless Conference and Exhibition. He was the author of numerous articles on RF safety practices and measurement issues, including an occasional column in Radio World.
Strickland had always wanted to be his own boss, and in 2003 he left Narda and founded his own company. There, he could focus his energies on the things that he liked to do the most. For him, that was sharing his knowledge of RF radiation and safety issues with others, as well as his own hands-on form of consulting.
Tom Ray, president of Tom Ray Broadcast Consulting, knew Strickland for 10 years. He shared stories from his work with Project Xanadu and SBE Chapter 15 in New York City.
At the time of Project Xanadu, a mall development project, Ray was director of engineering for WOR, New York. ‘“The Xanadu project was being built very close to the 50,000 watt WEPN AM 1050 transmitter site, located in North Bergen, N.J. Construction workers were getting shocked by the RF, and the large cranes in use at the site were especially hazardous,” Ray said.
“They hired Strickland, who came in and took measurements to prove it was a safe working environment, as long as precautions were being taken, such as grounding the cranes and avoiding a few RF hot spots. Since the cranes moved around as the construction progressed, he would check back every four weeks to confirm the site was always safe.”
From his days with the SBE chapter, Ray recalls Strickland as both a great storyteller and generous giver of his time.
“A discussion about RF safety compliance and regulations could bore you to tears, but Strickland brought it to life with his case histories. He got people involved with a good story, and knew not only the regulations, but also the science behind them. We would pay him for a three-hour session at our SBE meetings, but he would always stay after the session for Q&A, and not leave until everyone’s questions had been answered.”
Carl T. (Tom) Jones Jr., president of Carl T. Jones Corp., worked with Strickland and remembers him as something of a Renaissance man.
“There are others who do RF measurements, consult on RF radiation issues and do the actual measurements. Richard was unique in that he did all of those things. His company was really a one-man shop.” In later years, as his health began to fail, Strickland sub-contracted the measurement part of projects to Jones, which is how they became acquainted.
He adds that Strickland was equally well versed in broadcast, radar, cellular and satellite uplink RF measurement as well as safety compliance standards.
“Richard was an amazing person, with an immense knowledge base. He gave a great deal to the industry, and trained thousands of engineers and managers.”
Strickland had several interests outside of work, one of which was world travel. He and his wife were avid travelers through Europe, Alaska, the Caribbean and South America. Strickland looked forward to adding countries to the list of more than 70 he had visited.
He was also a master craftsman and woodworker, building beautiful cabinets and furniture of his own design. Most of the work was done in a well-furnished shop he had set up in his garage. In later years, he was also an amateur photographer, who took numerous landscape and wildlife photos.
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