In Memoriam: Gordon Quillin


by John R. Frazier and J. Stewart Bland

John Gordon Quillin, 65, of Lafayette, Colorado, passed away unexpectedly on 11 August 2018 during a golf outing in Vail, Colorado, with his wife of 42 years and friends visiting from South Carolina.

A memorial service was held on 18 August at Louisville (Colorado) United Methodist Church, where for many years Gordon had been an active member. Gordon sang bass in a southern gospel quartet and was a lay leader of the church.

Gordon was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, to India Miller Quillin and Charles Mack Quillin on 15 April 1953. He graduated from Gate City (Virginia) High School in 1971, where he was all-conference center on the school's first state-championship football team in 1970. In 1975, he graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) with a BS in biology, concentration in health physics. While at Virginia Tech, he was president (worthy master) of the Virginia Tech chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega national fraternity. He and the former Kathleen Ann Knight were married on 26 June 1976.

He received a master of science in health physics from National Technological University in 1994 and following graduation from Virginia Tech, Gordon began a 43-year journey as a health physicist. His first work in the profession began at the Farley Nuclear Plant, where he supported the preoperational, startup, and operational environmental monitoring program and the effluent monitoring program for four years. He reported that he learned applied health physics for commercial nuclear power operations while at Farley. He also made many lifelong friends during those years at the Farley Plant.

In 1979, he joined Duke Power in its Charlotte corporate office, where he worked on ALARA programs at operating and construction sites. There he gained valuable technical experience on multiple projects that led him, over the next 11 years, to provide technical support to other commercial nuclear power programs through his employment at three companies located in the Atlanta area. During those years, he worked for Nuclear Data (later Applied Physical Technology) (1979–1983), Atlan-Tech, Inc. (1983–1986), and Quantum Technology (1986–1990). His expertise was with effluent monitoring systems, off-site dose calculations, emergency monitoring, quality-assurance programs, and numerous other areas. Gordon and Kathy celebrated the birth of their two children, Cameron and Adam, while living in the Atlanta area during those years.

In 1990, Gordon and Kathy moved their family west to Colorado so Gordon could share his technical expertise and management skills at the Department of Energy (DOE) Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site. For two years, Gordon was radiological health branch manager and directed the radiological health support at Rocky Flats, including internal and external dosimetry, bioassay, radiological records, health physics instrumentation, and the environmental lab. In 1992, he was promoted to deputy director, radiation protection and served as the site radiological control manager. Among his many responsibilities in that role, he led the project to implement the DOE Radiological Control Manual and 10 CFR Part 835.

Always interested in challenges, Gordon founded The Alpha Group and Associates, LLC, in the summer of 1995 to privatize the radiological instrumentation support function at Rocky Flats. He served as president and chief executive officer of The Alpha Group and expanded the company to provide radiological engineering, health and safety, waste packaging, and project management support during site closure. During the following 11 years, Gordon expanded the work to three additional DOE sites (Hanford, Idaho, and the Nevada Test Site) with more than 80 employees.

Gordon continued his role of providing technical and managerial support to DOE projects with Cabrera Services, Inc., from 2006 to 2009. Then, in May 2009, he moved back east to serve as director of the Radiological Protection Department of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions in Aiken, South Carolina. For the next six years, he served as director, with numerous other technical-management responsibilities at the Savannah River site. As with all the sites where he worked during his long career, Gordon had many dear friends at the Savannah River site.

In May 2015, Gordon returned to Colorado to be with Kathy, his children, and two new grandsons (of whom he was immensely proud). In the past three years he was executive vice president with Excalibur Associates in Westminster, Colorado, where he provided operational oversight and management for federal contracts and technical support in several areas.

Gordon joined the Health Physics Society (HPS) in 1979 as a plenary member. Later he earned comprehensive certification from the American Board of Health Physics. He served on the HPS Program Committee and Local Arrangements Committee. One of his more memorable service activities with the Rocky Mountain Chapter was arranging the first "Pub Crawl" for the 2000 HPS Annual Meeting in Denver.

For fun, Gordon was an avid golfer and mountain climber; he conquered many of Colorado's 58 "14ers." He was a sommelier and a board member of the Colorado Brewers Association. He published and copyrighted a book of his detailed memories of growing up on a small farm near Snowflake, Virginia. He had a knack for brightening any room he entered and making everyone there believe they were his best friend. Gordon was a true "Southern Gentleman" who will be greatly missed. Our condolences go to Kathy, his children, his grandchildren, his extended family, and the many friends who loved him dearly.