Bernice Noble, Noted UB Research Scientist and Union Activist, Dies at 63

Release Date: November 11, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Immunologist Bernice K. Noble, Ph.D., 63, of Eggertsville, professor of microbiology and immunology in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, died unexpectedly Nov. 8 in the Veterans Administration Hospital of respiratory complications of a serious chronic illness.

Noble was president-elect of the medical school Faculty Council and a member of the UB Faculty Senate.

She was a nationally recognized scientist in the field of immunology whose principle research involved experimental models of immune complex-associated glomerular nephritis, the association of immunologic damage with functional impairment and, most recently, the relationship between autoimmunity and gender.

She received numerous grants to fund her research, which was published regularly in such distinguished journals as the Journal of Medical Humanities; Journal of Immunology; Journal of Oral Implantology; Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology; the Journal of Periodontal Research and the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. She was a member of the editorial committee of Immunological Investigations, an online journal of molecular and cellular immunology.

"She was a very unusual person. She was a very good, careful scientist and an articulate, well-read, very intelligent person with very broad perspective, which made her a very good and thorough teacher," said Ichiro Nakamura, Ph.D., professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at UB and a colleague who taught with Noble for years. "She was a person you could go to for help and she gave very sound advice. It was a pleasure to work with her and I still can't believe she's gone."

Noble was a member of the affiliated and cooperating faculty of the Department of Women's Studies in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the executive committee of the UB Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender.

In addition to her research and publications in her field, Noble was a long-time union advocate and an activist for student rights and equal rights for employees at UB. She worked relentlessly toward

increasing the number of female students and tenure-track faculty members in the sciences.

In 1996-97, she co-chaired the President's Task Force on the Status of Women at UB and was the principle author of its final report, whose analysis of salaries and promotion patterns at the university confirmed many serious salary disparities between men and women on the professional staff and faculty, particularly at the academic level of full professor. She said at the time that she had seen very little change in the status of women in her many decades as a scientist, and worried "about the naïveté of young women who are just going into science."

The task force provided impetus for an increase in salaries for women at UB, the expansion of child-care facilities to the UB North Campus and the establishment of a large and well-functioning affirmative action office.

Gretchen Knapp, Ph.D., a historian at Illinois State University who, while a graduate student at UB, assisted Noble in compiling the statistical documentation that supported the task force report, called Noble, "such a lovely person. She was incredibly energetic and accomplished a great deal. And she really loved UB. She was an inspiration to me and I have always felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Bernice. I'll miss her very much."

Noble was very active in the UB Health Sciences Center Chapter of United University Professions (UUP), the union representing SUNY faculty and professional staff members, and at the time of her death was chapter vice president for academics. She previously had served as the chapter membership chair and grievance chair.

She also was a member of UUP's statewide Women's Rights and Concerns Committee and a longtime delegate to the UUP State Assembly.

"Bernice did an enormous and largely unrecognized service to the university through her work on behalf of its women employees and students," said Jean Dickson, former president of the Buffalo Center Chapter of UUP. "We all loved her. She was tiny, fiesty, funny and kind, and never gave up. I'll miss her wonderful intelligence, wry humor and her determination to 'look harmless but carry a big stick.' The women of this university owe her a debt of gratitude that will extend far into the future."

A native of Philadelphia, Noble was a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and earned a master's degree at Brandeis University before receiving a doctorate in microbiology from UB in 1975. She joined the UB faculty in 1977.

She is survived by her husband Robert, a professor of biochemistry in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and sons Peter, of Oakland, Calif., and Aaron and Benjamin, both of Seattle.

Funeral services are private. The family will announce plans for a memorial service at a later date.

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