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Dr. Noel R. Rose, a former faculty member at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, dies

Dr. Noel R. Rose has been called the “father of autoimmunity.”
Dr. Noel R. Rose has been called the “father of autoimmunity.”

Dr. Noel R. Rose, a prominent faculty member and researcher at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, died July 30 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, days after suffering a stroke at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was 92.

From his research starting in the 1950s while at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine, Dr. Rose made several breakthroughs in the field of autoimmunity, including the discovery of the genetic basis of autoimmune disease. He is often referred to as the “father of autoimmunity.”

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Dr. Rose came to Johns Hopkins in 1982, serving as chair of what is now the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School until stepping down in 1993. During that time, he also had a full-time appointment in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology, serving as director of the graduate program.

He then directed the Department of Pathology Division of Immunology for five years and served as president of the Bloomberg School Faculty Senate. In 1999, he founded and directed the Johns Hopkins Center for Autoimmune Disease Research.

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“Noel was an extraordinary scientist and an exceptionally kind and humble human being, always looking out for the well-being of faculty and students,” Ellen J. MacKenzie, the current dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a statement from the hospital announcing Dr. Rose’s death. “I admired his steadfast commitment to excellence coupled with his dry sense of humor. He was always good at listening to different sides of an argument and reaching a decision that everyone felt good about.”

The son of Samuel Allison Rose, a physician, and Helen Richard Rose, a teacher and homemaker, Dr. Rose was born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut, where he graduated from Stamford High School.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in science from Yale University in 1948 and a Ph.D. in medical microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. Awarded research funding for his discovery of autoimmunity, Dr. Rose received his M.D. from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine in 1964 and went on to serve on the faculty there until 1973. From 1973 to 1982, he was a professor and the chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

In 1991, Dr. Rose and Virginia T. Ladd founded the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. World-renowned, he was the director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Autoimmune Disorders and was chair of the Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Rose published 880 articles or chapters and edited or co-edited 23 books, including the textbook “The Autoimmune Diseases.”

He received numerous accolades, including the Abbott Award, Professional Recognition Award and Founder’s Distinguished Service Award from the American Society for Microbiology. At Johns Hopkins, he received the Ernest Lyman Stebbins Medal, the Bloomberg School’s most prestigious award.

Dr. Rose’s early work laid the foundation in the field, with more than 80 autoimmune diseases having been identified, including Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

“As his successor as department chair, I benefited greatly from Noel’s perspective and advice. In his own quiet and considerate way, he contributed to science and the School of Public Health in multiple ways,” said Dr. Diane Griffin, who served as chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from 1994 through 2014. “He was a founding contributor to the field of autoimmunity and continued to make pioneering contributions to our understanding of these diseases.”

When he was away from his work, Dr. Rose dearly loved the family he made with his wife of 69 years, Deborah H. Rose. His son, David, said he and his three siblings — and later grandchildren and great-grandchildren — always came first.

“He actually didn’t talk a huge amount of his work with the family,” David Rose said. “It was always the family coming first, and he was very interested in giving us well-rounded experiences in terms of international travel and getting to know different cultures. We all respected him for what he did, but, at the same time, he was our father, our grandfather our great-grandfather.”

Dr. Rose enjoyed the arts, from theater to ballet to symphony and opera. He loved traveling and enjoyed playing tennis and swimming.

The family celebrated his life by way of Zoom, and no further services are planned at this time because of the pandemic.

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In addition to his wife, Deborah Rose of Brookline, and his son, David, of Ontario, survivors include another son, Jonathan Richard Rose of Romeo, Michigan; two daughters, Alison Rose Weinstock of Weston, Massachusetts, and Bethany Rose Kramer of Framingham, Massachusetts; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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