Born April 3, 1959 to Norman L. and Valerie J. Haight, Joel Haight was raised in Johnsonburg and Rasselas, and graduated from Johnsonburg Area High School in 1977.
Today, the area native enjoys a research position with the U.S. government in the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Pittsburgh.
Following graduation, Haight attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he earned an undergraduate degree in Safety Sciences in 1981. While attending IUP, he also participated on the institution's track and field team for four years.
"After graduation, I went to work for the Chevron Corporation in Bakersfield, Calif." Haight said. "Also, in 1981, I married my wife Janet, who is from Pittsburgh."
The couple has two daughters, Aubrie, age 26, is a pharmacist who received a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Auburn University in 2008 and lives with her husband in Asheville, N.C., and Taylor, age 23, is studying nursing at Penn State University after getting her first undergraduate degree there in 2009.
"In 19 years of working in the oil industry for Chevron, we lived and I worked in New Jersey, California on two occasions, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Mississippi, and then also in the Republic of Kazakhstan," Haight said. "While we lived in Alabama, I went back to school at Auburn University where I earned a masters degree and a Ph.D., both in Industrial and Systems Engineering.
"I spent a year as a graduate assistant track coach while I was at Auburn also."
Because much of the oil industry is moving overseas, it became disruptive to their family life so Haight took a faculty position at Penn State University in 2000 where he served as a professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering.
"I loved the teaching side of the business and I think I get that from my mother but the large research universities like Penn State expect strong research programs," Haight said. "That research along with government and industry funding took me back out on the road where I had active research programs going on in Canada, Mexico, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia and the Middle East as well as the in the U.S."
To date, Haight has visited and/or worked in 49 states in the U.S. and 20 countries.
"While exciting, that much travel is taxing and after recent open heart surgery, I had to reprioritize my life’s activities," Haight said. "Health kept coming out near the top, so I regrettably gave up my faculty appointment and tenure at Penn State and took a research position with the U.S. government in the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here in Pittsburgh.
"I manage a group of about 40 engineers and scientists who study the mining industry to develop means to prevent the types of incidents that we’ve just seen in Chile where the 33 miners were trapped for more than two months."
Haight travels much less now and has built a house on 84 acres in Washington County where he "will go back to my Johnsonburg and Rasselas roots and start a farm."
Haight also has written and published more than 30 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and book chapters, and has delivered more than 50 invited lectures in several states and countries around the world.
"I edited and authored a large reference handbook for the American Society of Safety Engineers," Haight said.
“The Safety Professionals Handbook” is a multi-volume reference handbook that was published in 2008.
"There are 80 contributing authors and we are currently working on the second edition," Haight said. "I have also accepted an invitation from the publisher, Wiley and Sons, to edit and co-author 'The Handbook of Loss Prevention Engineering.'
"For this book, there are about 35 contributing authors from about 10 countries. This book is expected to be published in 2012. I am also currently working on three more research articles for the scientific journals that are expected to be published in 2011 and 2012."
Looking back at Johnsonburg, Haight said he believes growing up there was "a little isolating" for him.
"I always felt like I wasn’t hearing the whole story about life in the outside world," Haight said. "Growing up in Johnsonburg and attending IUP made me feel like I had to work twice as hard to get half the respect that the world had for the New York City and Harvard people.
"In fact it was this hometown and parents-driven motivation that got me to see that I could compete with the Harvard and Cal-Berkeley people of the world."
The area native now believes that "living in such a small town inspired him to want to go out there and see what the world had to offer." He credits his parents for inspiring him the most.
"From as early as I can remember, they coached me to want to go away to school," Haight said. "In my mind, there was no other option but to go to college and see where that would take me.
It has taken me far and wide. My wife and I think we have instilled that in our own children also. I did get inspiration from a couple of teachers at Johnsonburg too. Gerry Campbell, a gym teacher, instilled an appreciation for good health and that has become especially important as age begins to whittle away at mine and John Casciani, a chemistry teacher, fueled my engineering and science interests."
Haight's family has come back to visit often as "Pittsburgh is much closer than Tengiz, Kazakhstan" and they were just home for Johnsonburg’s bicentennial celebration.