Art and science

Joyce Newman, PhD’55, balances intellectual and social bonds.

Although Joyce Newman’s parents never went to college, they encouraged her to do so. “School, reading, learning were early passions in my life,” she says. Born and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Newman, PhD’55, enjoyed chemistry in high school. After earning a bachelor’s in chemistry at Cornell, she continued her biochemistry education at UChicago, here an uncle was a resident in psychiatry.

At the University she met her late husband, Melvin Newman, SB’42, MD’44, a surgical resident. They both appreciated the University’s attitude of academic honesty, comradeship in investigation, and opportunities for exploring wide-ranging interests. “I felt like it was just the atmosphere I had always wanted to study in,” Joyce says. By the time she earned her doctorate, the two were married and had two children.

“Following the pattern for women in those times, I moved according to my husband’s career, to New York then Denver,” where she worked part time researching lung chemistry at the University of Colorado Medical Center and later taught science courses at the University of Colorado’s downtown center. Newman became active in the UChicago Alumni Association, particularly in planning programs—picking up speakers at the airport, serving them dinner, and driving them to the program site. She also began to sculpt, a profession she’s practiced for more than 40 years. “I work only in clay and have created some monumental sized works as well as small ones.”

Melvin’s career was influenced by teachers like UChicago’s first surgery chair, Dallas Phemister, who invented a type of bone graft, and William Adams, one of Phemister’s students. Melvin taught and did clinical work at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center at Brooklyn and at the University of Colorado Medical Center. He became a pioneer in artificial heart-valve replacements.

After 20 years in Denver, the couple moved to Southern California, where she was active in the LA Alumni Club. Newman served on the Alumni Board of Governors for a couple of terms and earned an Alumni Service Citation in 1994.

Over the years, the couple made small unrestricted gifts to the University. After Melvin retired in 1991, the two reviewed their savings and assessed how to manage their finances. “I heard about the charitable annuity concept from the University, and it looked like a perfect opportunity to express our gratitude and affection for the place and assure ourselves that we would have a dependable income for the rest of our lives,” Joyce says. They established one annuity then, and shortly after Melvin died in 2002, Joyce purchased another annuity to provide income for herself.

A few years after her husband’s death, Newman reconnected with an old friend in the clay world, Henry Tufts Mead, LAB’44, who also has University connections. Mead’s parents and siblings attended the College, and his grandfathers, both UChicago professors in philosophy, had dormitories named after them, Mead and Tufts. “He has become the companion of my old age these past ten years.”

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