In recognition of his work to promote the profession and the industry, William E. (Bill) Corbin, executive vice president of Mutual Sprinklers in Dallas, was presented the American Fire Sprinkler Association’s (AFSA) highest honor, the Henry S. Parmelee Award, on October 17 during AFSA’s Annual Convention and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.
The Parmelee Award is given to a select group of individuals who have tirelessly committed to strengthening the fire sprinkler industry. Through industry, company and association work, Bill Corbin has proven to be a true advocate of fire protection and the fire sprinkler industry.
Corbin began his career as an apprentice at Gulf Automatic Sprinkler, which was one of the largest fire sprinkler companies in the state. He fulfilled his long-range plan to move from apprentice to construction superintendent to vice president and eventually part owner. In 1986, the Interface Group purchased Gulf Sprinklers. Mutual Sprinklers was born out of this acquisition, and Corbin was named vice president and part owner.
His interest in training and safety landed Corbin in the midst of AFSA committee work. “In 1990 I was asked to chair the AFSA Safety Committee, whose main objective was to develop a safety program for the membership,” recalls Corbin. “We were tasked to rewrite the industry’s Safety Manual, and it was an important job.”
Under Corbin’s leadership, committee members continued on their quest to provide a safe work environment by combining recommendations from insurance providers and industry manufacturers with proven best practices of successful fire sprinkler contractors, and introduced many new programs including: Manual of Recommended Procedures to Implement a Safety & Hazard Communication Program, Personal Safety Handbook, Toolbox Safety Talks (six-month program), Weekly Toolbox Safety Program (a one-year program), Fall Protection Program for Fire Sprinkler Contractors, Jobsite Safety Program, and Fleet Safety Manual. Continually updated, these programs give contractors valuable training tools and impact each and every member of the fire sprinkler workforce.
Corbin was also a driving force in the National Scholarship Essay Contest, which has educated many thousands of people about the property- and life-saving benefits of fire sprinklers since it began 12 years ago. Under Corbin’s leadership, the committee developed and launched a nationwide scholarship essay contest in 1996. High-school students wrote essays about a specified fire sprinkler topic. Industry volunteers judged the entries and selected national winners.
In 2006, it was revamped to an online competition to reach even more students and provide more scholarships. That year the number of entries topped 10,000. The latest (2007-2008) contest results show that more 23,000 students entered to win one of ten $2,000 scholarships.
Corbin was elected to AFSA’s Board of Directors in 1991. He served as Region IV Director and chaired several committees until 1999, when he was elected Chairman of the Board. During that time, Corbin witnessed – and contributed to – AFSA’s sensational growth, with membership nearly doubling, education programs and participants more than tripling, and membership benefits continually multiplying.
“I have been associated with AFSA since the late ’80s and its growth has just been phenomenal,” comments Corbin. “AFSA has absolutely gone the extra mile for fire sprinkler contractors.”
But moreover, Corbin has gone the extra mile for the industry, serving it – and its people – for 50 years this year. Steve Muncy, AFSA president, remarks: “One of the great things about my position in AFSA is that I get to work closely with some giants of the fire sprinkler industry – and this was the case in working closely with Bill Corbin. As Chairman of the Board of AFSA, Bill excelled in bringing people together and finding the ‘middle road.’ He has always been a voice of reason, and his 50 years in the fire sprinkler industry has been a labor of love. His activities in promoting the industry he loves are respected, and serve as an example for the future leaders of this industry.”
Corbin continues in his post as executive vice president of Mutual Sprinklers, now a part of the American Fire Protection Group, and shows no signs of slowing down.