Susan W. Rockwood

Professor Emerita of Microbiology
November 26, 1924 - February 15, 1983


Dr. Susan Rockwood died on February 15, 1983, after a courageous five-year battle against cancer, which she fought with a ferocity typical of any of her confrontations with things threatening and unfair. She was 58 years of age. Sue was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 26, 1924, and spent her life in Ohio, in the Cincinnati area.

Sue's interests in the biological sciences developed early. She received her bachelor's degree from Denison University in zoology in 1946. She began her clinical career immediately after graduation as a laboratory technologist at Cincinnati General Hospital. Here Sue discovered what was to be her great and continuing interest, clinical microbiology. In 1947 Sue transferred to Cincinnati's Bethesda Hospital where, one year later, she received her certification as a Registered Medical Technologist. She remained at Bethesda Hospital until 1953. During this time her great skill and enthusiasm in the laboratory resulted in her appointment as Clinical Laboratory Supervisor. Sue always remembered, with great fondness and pride, her experiences in the hospital environment. She brought the excitement of these clinical years to the students in her classes at Miami University with her famous "Sea Stories" about the real life of clinical laboratory medicine.

In 1953 Sue was lured into the field of applied microbiological research with her appointment to the Microbiology Section of the Robert A. Taft Sanitary Engineering Center. During her three years at the Taft Center, her interest in and talent for research became obvious, and she was encouraged to begin her graduate studies in microbiology. In 1956 she entered the master's program in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Cincinnati. She received her degree in 1958 and continued in the program for her doctorate, which she completed in 1962. During these years Sue experienced for the first time what was to become one of the great joys of her life, teaching. She served as an instructor both in the Department of Bacteriology and in the Bethesda Hospital School of Nursing.

In the Fall of 1962, Sue came to Miami University and the Department of Microbiology as an Assistant Professor. Her contributions to the department, the university and the field of medical microbiological research earned her promotions to Associate Professor in 1967 and Professor in 1973. Shortly after her arrival at Miami Sue also took on the added responsibility of directing the Medical Technology Program. Her training and experience made her eminently qualified to undertake this new task.

The Medical Technology Program (Medical Laboratory Science) at Miami University is identified with Susan Rockwood. She developed, maintained, nurtured and defended it. The recognized quality of the program was, and is, a reflection of her efforts and dedication and the unqualified excellence of her students, her "kids," whom she sent into the world of clinical laboratory medicine armed with knowledge and confidence in their technical skills. She was constantly available to advise and counsel her students and to assure their placement in programs of excellence for their internships and employment. She also enhanced the program financially by generating nearly $135,000 in external grant support for program development.

She was a teacher in the truest sense of the word. She developed, or helped to evolve, courses in pathogenic microbiology, epidemiology, medical mycology and the history of microbiology. While her style and enthusiasm made her courses entertaining and stimulating, she was uncompromising in her demands for high standards of performance from her students. She was legend in Pathogenic Microbiology, her first love, where she described microbes, the diseases they cause, their diagnosis, treatment and cure. The course was constantly sprinkled with those Rockwood "Sea Stories," her personal clinical experiences, which vividly brought home to her students the reality of human infectious diseases.

Sue was a capable and enthusiastic researcher. Her publications and the achievements of her former graduate students attest to the quality of training she provided. Her interests always centered on the development of better methods for infectious disease diagnosis, treatment and control. However, "wet bench" research in recent years seemed not to bring her the satisfaction she had enjoyed in previous years. But then, one semester three years ago while directing a young undergraduate, Sally Francis, in an independent studies project, a new and exciting world of scholarship opened to Sue Rockwood. Sue came into the possession of the personal files, correspondence, publications and photographs of Dr. Edward Francis, a pioneering microbe hunter and disease Fighter. She began to organize this seemingly endless wealth of information and she began to write. We will never forget her constant excitement and enthusiasm. She barely had time to scratch the surface. And yet, her first efforts culminated in a publication, which brought her instant international recognition. These activities led, last year, to her appointment to the prestigious National Archives Committee of the American Society for Microbiology.

Susan Rockwood as a women member of the Miami University faculty maintained a deep concern for justice and equality for women. She encouraged both students and faculty by serving as a role model. Her selection as University Woman of the Year in 1965 and Outstanding University Woman in 1974 are reflections of the deep respect with which she was held by the Miami University community. Many similar honors came to her from regional, national and international sources.

Susan Rockwood is survived by only a few members of her immediate family. However, she will always be remembered by her many colleagues, friends and students who so warmly benefited from her friendship and her professional commitment.

Respectfully submitted,

Donald C. Cox, Chair
Robert J. Brady
Jane L. Rees
David B. Stroupe
C. K. Williamson