Time Magazine’s 2016 list of the “100 Most-Read Female Writers in College Classes” included, not surprisingly, names like Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, and Toni Morrison. Within this esteemed group, however—taking spot number seven—was the less-known but preeminent textbook author, Elaine Nicpon Marieb.
Dr. Marieb’s effect on teaching and learning anatomy and physiology has been profound. Known for her desire and ability to integrate the student’s perspective into her teaching, Dr. Marieb’s textbooks are estimated to be read in over 3,000 classrooms worldwide, with more than three million nurses and healthcare professionals that are practicing today having likely learned about anatomy and physiology from that source. Her reach has been one of global dimensions; however, Dr. Marieb’s influence has been magnified closer to home—students at both Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and Holyoke Community College will be reminded of Dr. Marieb’s intellect, her special connection with her students, and her generosity as they study in the buildings there that are named in her honor.
“Dr. Elaine Nicpon Marieb, PhD, internationally-known text book author and philanthropist, had a storied writing career that spanned four decades.”
Dr. Elaine Nicpon Marieb, PhD, internationally-known text book author and philanthropist, had a storied writing career that spanned four decades. She authored and co-authored more than 10 best-selling textbooks and laboratory manuals in anatomy and physiology, including the undergraduate laboratory manual, “Human Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory Manual” and the textbook, “Human Anatomy & Physiology” by Marieb & Hoehn. Learning and teaching were her passions. Dr. Marieb earned a bachelor’s degree from Westfield State College in Massachusetts (MA) and a Master’s degree from Mount Holyoke College (MA). She began her teaching career at Springfield College and after receiving her PhD in zoology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Dr. Marieb went on to teach at Holyoke Community College.
Always striving to better understand the relationship between the study of the human body and the clinical aspects of nursing, Dr. Marieb enrolled in Holyoke Community College’s Associate Degree Nursing program—while she was teaching—and proudly earned her nursing degree. She went on to attain a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Fitchburg State College, and a Master of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass Amherst), with a clinical specialization in gerontology. Dr. Marieb was also awarded an honorary doctorate from FGCU.
Dr. Marieb liked to call herself an “accidental author,” as she had authored only a few academic journal articles prior to reviewing textbook manuscripts for Addison Wesley in the 1970s. During that time, Dr. Marieb decided to write her own laboratory manual, which became the most widely-used lab manual in colleges and universities across the country soon after its publication in 1981.
Dr. Marieb then embarked upon writing what would become her magnum opus—her human anatomy and physiology textbook. Having the dual roles of student and teacher gave Marieb special insights into the foundational knowledge that nurses needed to master. Armed with this insight and a clear talent for teaching and writing, Marieb authored Human Anatomy & Physiology. The textbook was published in 1989 and became an immediate hit with both instructors and students. As Pearson Editor-in-Chief, Serina Beauparlant, so aptly stated, “Elaine, of course, had many talents including a vision for how to teach, a talent for writing, a relentless work ethic—but I think she also had a special gift for how to connect with the student. This empathy permeated her books at a time when textbooks didn’t have a lot of pedagogy or a strong author voice. Elaine’s textbooks set a new standard that is still in play, today.”
“A woman of conviction and action, Dr. Elaine Nicpon Marieb will continue to shape lives through her legacy as an educator and philanthropist through the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Foundation.”
Dr. Marieb’s love of teaching and learning lives on through her philanthropy. Her $15 million gift to FGCU, pledged between 2012 and 2017, resulted in naming the health building, Marieb Hall, and subsequently, the Marieb College of Health & Human Services, which provides degree programs in nursing, athletic training, occupational therapy, physical therapy, exercise science, physician assistant studies, clinical mental health counseling, health administration and social work, among others. True to her passion to help others, the endowments benefit both students and teachers.
Dr. Marieb has also generously funded programs at Holyoke Community College, Mount Holyoke College, and UMass Amherst. The science building at Holyoke Community College bears her name. The New Directions|New Careers programs at Holyoke Community College provides funding to a staffed drop-in center, as well as to scholarships for women who are either returning to or starting college. Additionally, at the school, the Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence is awarded each year to a faculty member who is recognized for outstanding classroom teaching. An endowed fund provides the recipient with a stipend that can be used to further his or her professional skills. At Mount Holyoke College, Dr. Marieb has helped advance research by undergraduate science majors through the E.N. Marieb Science Research Awards, and has helped finance the renovation and updating of one of the school’s biology labs. UMass Amherst has benefited from Dr. Marieb’s generosity, as well. There, she funded the reconstruction and instrumentation of a state-of-the-art cytology research lab, and also underwrote the university’s Nursing Scholars of the Future Grant Program, in light of the severe shortage of nursing faculty.
In 1994, the National Council for Resource Development, American Association of Community Colleges, presented Dr. Marieb with the Benefactor Award, recognizing her ongoing sponsorship of student scholarships, faculty teaching awards, and other academic contributions to Holyoke Community College.
Dr. Marieb’s philanthropy extended to other personal interests. An herbarium and laboratory will be named in her honor at Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Garden. Not as well-known were Dr. Marieb’s philanthropic endeavors to help strengthen early childhood education by funding the Children First organization in Sarasota, Florida. One of their locations, the Dr. Elaine Marieb Early Learning Center, bears her name.
Dr. Marieb was an active member of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She was also a consultant for the Benjamin Cummings Interactive Physiology® series.
Dr. Marieb’s comments to FGCU 360 Magazine in 2017 summed up the important role that education played in her life, as well as her reason for inspiring others:
“Education gave me the faith and confidence I have in myself, and I would love to help instill that faith in students pursuing careers in health professions. Be diligent in your studies because only when you are, can you gain the sense of accomplishment that brings confidence in yourself. With confidence and education, you can change your life.”
Born on April 5, 1936 in Northampton, MA to Evelyn Rose (Pelkey) Nicpon and Francis Joseph Nicpon, Dr. Marieb grew up on her family’s farm there. As a teen, she sang the blues at a local cafe and attended Smith College. Dr. Marieb died on December 20th in Naples, FL at the age of 82. She was predeceased by her husbands Joseph Marieb and Harvey Howell, as well as her daughter, Pamela Marieb. Dr. Marieb is survived by her grandchildren, Shanna Torres and Joseph Mosler, and three sisters, Rose Marie Weibel (Charles), and Marilyn Ann Gawle (Paul), both of Easthampton, MA and Susan Ellen Koldis (William) of Northfield, MA. Dr. Marieb is also survived by many nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews.
A woman of conviction and action, Dr. Elaine Nicpon Marieb will continue to shape lives through her legacy as an educator and philanthropist through the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Foundation. For more information on that organization, please contact [email protected].