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Dr. Thad Godish, one of the most distinguished academic scholars to ever call Lilly, Pa. home

... a man who grew up on a farm on the “Lilly Level.”

Ph.D. from Penn State, 33 years as professor at Ball State University, leading researcher in “Air Resources,” Homeland Security expert

Many people grow up in meager, difficult circumstances, and Thad Godish outlined his in a short memoir entitled “In the Shadow of the Mountain,” a recollection of his family and childhood.

However, what few people from Lilly, Pa., where Dr. Godish grew up and learned the rudiments of environmental science during his formative years, realize what a distinguished scholar he was in the academic world.

He authored a series of textbooks after he was hired as a professor at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, in 1976. In 2000, he was awarded the honor of Researcher of the Year.

Later, his work attracted the attention of the newly-formed U.S. Department of Homeland Security which gave him a $2.5 million grant that aided emergency responders.

In short, Thad Godish, nicknamed “Tree” when he was playing basketball for the Lilly-Washington High School Raiders because he was about 6-feet, 5-inches tall, the biggest guy on that team, was a brilliant man who went on to distinguish himself in life.

A child of Polish immigrants, he made his parents proud though they were uneducated and did not have the knowledge of just how great their son was going to be.

This is a little bit of his odyssey.

Interview in 1998

When I was working a free-lance writer for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat in 1998, I was told that I had a package mailed to me from Indiana. In it was a book written by Thad Godish, but not an academic one.

Entitled “In the Shadow of the Mountain,” it went through the life of Thad as he had seen it in his formative years. It was self-published, something that he said in the note the he enclosed was important for him in his journey through life.

He asked if I would be interested in writing a column about the book.

I certainly was, and I arranged for a time for an interview. First, though, I had to read the book, which did not take long.

After that, I told him when I would be free, and he called me from his office at Ball State. It was a fascinating conversation.

Unfortunately, the iMac that I was using at the time, from which I transcribed the interview, was given away a few years ago, and I did not have the technological capability to save the items on it since it was circa 2000.

However, I did remember quite a bit from that conversation and will add what I can to Thad’s story.

Background of his accomplishments

After he passed away in 2009, Dr. Godish received a posthumous lifetime achievement award that outlines many of his accomplishments,

Dr. Thad Godish

Exemplar Lifetime Achievement Award

Recipients have a record of continual significant accomplishments throughout their lifetime promoting the sustainable use of natural resources or the protection of ecological systems.

Dr. Godish completed his Ph. D. degree at Penn State University in 1969 and joined Ball State University in 1976. He took a medical leave of absence from Ball State during Fall semester 2008 and passed away in June 2009.

Dr. Diana Godish accepted the award in Thad's honor.

Thad was a major influence in the evolution of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management by virtue of his contributions to teaching and service, and to scholarship in particular. Thad’s area of specialization was Air Resources, with a special focus on indoor air quality. He later expanded his expertise to embrace industrial hygiene and occupational safety and health. He taught courses in Air Resources, Indoor Air Quality, Industrial Hygiene, Asbestos and Lead Management, and the 40-hour OSHA course (Hazardous Materials Site Operations and Emergency Response).

Thad conducted extensive research in indoor air quality including hydrocarbon emissions from building materials, formaldehyde release and capture, mold contamination, and so-called ‘Sick Building Syndrome’. In the 1990s he earned certification as a Certified Industrial Hygienist.

Ball State University

His wife, Diana, co-authored some articles about air studies with him. She was the chairperson of the Department of Physiology and Health Science at Ball State.

Published books

Thad published a number of textbooks that have been used over the years focused on the quality of the air that people breathe inside buildings,

Dr. Godish is the author of four books: Air Quality, Fourth Edition (2003), Indoor Environmental Quality (2000), Sick Buildings: Definition, Diagnosis and Mitigation (1995), and Indoor Air Pollution Control (1989), all published by CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fla.

“Everything you want to know about indoor air pollution and more,” Indoor Environment Notebook, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Ball State University

Department bio

In addition to listing his publication, his bio in the early 2000s listed an overview of what he researched and taught,

About Thad Godish, Ph.D., C.I.H.

Dr. Thad Godish is professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at Ball State University.

He directs the university's indoor air quality/indoor environment research, teaching and public service activities.

His research studies have included: formaldehyde contamination of residences and associated health problems; mold contamination of buildings/sampling methods; building radon; indoor air quality problems in school buildings; emissions from combustion appliances/combusted materials; sick building syndrome; and lead-based paint contamination in residences.

He has served as an indoor air quality and industrial hygiene consultant, conducting air quality investigations in hundreds of buildings including residences, private and municipal offices, schools, hospitals and industrial facilities. He has been an expert witness in numerous personal injury legal claims associated with building environments. He is a certified industrial hygienist …

He teaches courses on air quality, indoor environmental quality,, occupational/industrial hygiene, lead and asbestos assessment, and hazardous materials health and safety.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Ball State University

Duties changed after 9/11

After the attacks on America in 2001, Thad Godish’s interests expanded to that of homeland security,

He is currently Chair of Ball State University’s Homeland Security Coordinating Committee which is responsible for developing Homeland Security majors and minors in Emergency Planning and Management and Cybersecurity as well as a Homeland Security Science major at the undergraduate level.

His academic and research focus has been on hazardous materials/environments health and safety issues. As an industrial hygienist his primary concern is to protect workers who must respond to a variety of hazardous materials episodes.

Ball State University


Thad was one of five children of Anthony and Amelia (Majaorowicz) Godish. He graduated from Lilly-Washington High School in 1960 and from Penn State in 1964.

His father immigrated to America and worked for a while until he could afford to bring over his wife and oldest child. He worked as a coal miner and his memoir detailed how challenging life was for the families of miners.

However, one of the most compelling parts of it for me is when he wrote a chapter called “Havin.” I wrote about this in an earlier story in 2017,

He compared his upbringing with that of his children. Those kids could not understand how he shared a bedroom with two other siblings. "How small for three! Where were the toys placed? ... There was [a] sled shared, bike shared, baseball glove shared … Toys, we had not … Christmas -- clothes, things of need in times good."

However, this is the part that is compelling. "This day, I look upon the toys of my children where they lay, some scattered and heaped. Is that Havin' better than what I knew? What lessons will my children carry with them from this time? Have I bartered my toil for something of less value than did Father?"

That is one of the more interesting lines in the book.

In our conversation 22 years ago, Thad noted that he was pleased to have accomplished what he did, but had to place everything in perspective. Did his children really learn any more from relative wealth than he and his four siblings did from life just above the poverty line?

It is an interesting question for discussion.


I write this in pride in one sense: Many people say that people who graduate from small, rural schools cannot accomplish a great deal in life.

Thad Godish demonstrated in his 67 years that the premise about small schools was not true. He and I discussed how difficult it was for him at Penn State in chemistry because of a weak background in high school. He had a very strong science education in biology and general science, he said, but chemistry and physics were challenging.

I knew who Thad was when he was in high school, but I was still attending St. Brigid’s Grade School when he was at Lilly-Washington. I did watch him play basketball during those years, but did not know him personally.

Still, all from Lilly and from that area of the Lilly Level should be proud to have had such a distinguished man call our hometown his home. He learned a work ethic from his time on the Level where they had a small farm and one cow that managed to provide sustenance to the family. They also had a large garden and canned goods for the winter, just as some people still do today.

“In the Shadow of the Mountain” is out of print, but I did find a copy on eBay.

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