A Clean Start: Kenneth Ausbie’s Devotion to Environmental Health

Kenneth Ausbie (B.S., ’74) spent his career ensuring environmental health and safety, particularly focused on water and petroleum storage. He is amazingly devoted to the field, which may explain the fact that he kept starting new positions in that field after retiring from a previous one. He and his wife of 44 years, Loretta, have three children – Kendra, Lauren, and Kevin.

Ausbie on track
Kenneth bursts from the starting block

Born in Lubbock, Texas, he attended first grade there during a time the schools were segregated. Then his family moved to Denver and, starting in second grade, he attended integrated schools, which he describes as a “big transition.” He says his experience was different than white classmates. As his parents were not educators, they could not add to the educational experience at home and nor could they help him with homework.

Early in high school, he was not focused on going to college; his interest was athletics. He played football and excelled in track. He was a top runner in the state, which resulted in colleges recruiting him. He considered several in-state institutions, but it was “the minority program” that led him to choose CSU.

Kenneth describes himself as “a decent student.” He recalls seeking out help from teachers and availing himself of a study center in Lory Student Center, where he got tutoring. A key influence on his academic career was an aptitude test that a psychology professor put together. It showed his interests were compatible with the sciences. With that focus, he started becoming “a student athlete,” and achieving academic success.

Ausbie and Doug Max in a pub
Kenneth with former head track coach, Doug Max, at left.

He had been in ROTC in high school, and as his college years were during the Vietnam War, the draft weighed heavily on his and other young men’s minds. However, Kenneth got a high draft number, which then allowed him to focus on track and academics, majoring in biological science and environmental health.

He competed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, although he “had been a 400 guy in high school.” When he got to CSU, he became even faster. He gives credit to a Ram teammate who told him that he “had a slow start,” explaining Kenneth was coming off the block on the wrong foot, something a coach had never mentioned. When he started coming off with the other foot, he significantly improved his times.  He went on to place second in the Colorado Relays finals with a time that qualified him for the Olympic Trials.

When he started looking for a job, he moved back to Texas and was hired by Schlitz Brewing Company. He worked in the engineering department as a certified wastewater treatment Grade B operator/technician for 4 years. He next spent 10 1/2 years as a water treatment consultant for Nalco Chemicals, Calgon Corporation, and Dearborn Chemical Company. Although this was a financially successful period of his career, he decided to “elevate” himself.

Kenneth Ausbie and his wife in front of a restaurant
Kenneth and his wife, Loretta

He spent the next 21 years with the Texas Water Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, serving as senior environmental investigator, focusing on water plants’ environmental testing and compliance investigations at petroleum storage tank facilities. He retired in 2010.

However, retirement did not mean no longer working. His next position was at the University of Texas, Arlington (UTA) managing investigators conducting compliance investigations at petroleum storage tank facilities. The compliance investigations involved evaluating ground water protection and air emission at the gasoline stations for the state of Texas.  After a combined 40 years on the job, he retired again. However, his commitment to environmental health continues, and Kenneth is available as a resource person for UTA. In addition to his many professional accomplishments, he was inducted into Denver’s East High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Looking back at his time at CSU, Kenneth thinks fondly of his teammates in track and field, including Doug Max (B.S., ’75), who spent his career in the CSU Athletic Department as a track coach and administrator. Kenneth debunks the notion that learning stops when a person leaves school. His career is evidence, he explains, that “learning is lifelong!”