James Dudek (left) presented the 2019 AIST Benjamin F. Fairless Award (AIME) to Brian G. Thomas (right).
Benjamin F. Fairless Award (AIME)
History and Purpose
The AIST Benjamin F. Fairless Award (AIME) was established in 1954 in honor of Benjamin F. Fairless, chairman of the board of United States Steel Corporation, for his intense interest in the technology and development of the iron and steel industry. This award recognizes distinguished achievement in iron and steel production and ferrous metallurgy.
Nominations shall be made by submitting the AIST Award Nomination Form. Five letters of endorsement, a biography and proposed citation are required with each nomination.
All nomination information is considered confidential to the AIST Board of Directors, the Awards & Recognition Program Committee and its subcommittees.
This award shall recognize distinguished achievement in iron and steel production and ferrous metallurgy. Posthumous nominations shall be eligible if nominated within three years of death.
The AIST Awards and Recognition Program Committee shall select a final candidate.
Funding for this program provided in part by the generous support of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME). AIST is a proud member society of AIME, founded 1871.
About Benjamin Franklin Fairless
Fairless graduated as class valedictorian from Justus High School in 1905. He received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Ohio Northern University in 1913.
After graduation, he worked for Central Steel Co. and by 1921, he had been promoted to mill superintendent, general superintendent and finally executive vice president in charge of operations. In 1926, Central Steel merged with the United Alloy Steel Corp. Fairless was made vice president and general manager of the new company, Central Alloy Steel, and in 1928 promoted to president.
In 1930, Central Alloy Steel merged with several other firms to form Republic Steel Corp. Fairless was named first vice president of the new company. Fairless oversaw executives and operations at several facilities in New York, Alabama, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
He resigned from Republic Steel in 1935 to become president of U. S. Steel Company’s newly formed subsidiary, Carnegie-Illinois Steel, which rapidly expanded under Fairless.
During Fairless' tenure as president of Carnegie-Illinois Steel and later U. S. Steel, he led his company through labor negotiations that stretched through World War II. Fairless was also active in mobilizing the U.S. steel industry for defense purposes during the war.
As World War II ended, the United Steelworkers demanded a significant pay increase in order to bring pay in line with the heavy inflation brought about by the war. Strikes during and shortly after World War II convinced many in the U.S. Congress that federal labor laws should be amended to prevent these threats to national security. In 1947, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, which established a National Labor-Management Panel to advise the president on how to avoid major disruptions in critical economic sectors. In December 1947, Truman appointed Fairless to this six-person panel.
In 1945, Fairless met with a mining engineer named Mack Lake. Lake told Fairless that he believed there was iron ore in Venezuela. He asked Fairless to subsidize the research for the ore and Fairless agreed.