I first met Beverly Bishop ’46 (MA) and her husband, Charles W. Bishop ’46M (PhD), on May 1, 2008. They had endowed a professorship at the University, and I was fortunate to be the first recipient. I soon realized that Beverly and Charles were truly inspirational people.
They invited me for lunch at their home with a colleague from Rochester. After lunch we toured Beverly’s lab in the Department of Physiology in Sherman Hall at the University of Buffalo’s School of Medicine, where I first began to appreciate her important contributions to neurophysiology and her remarkable dedication to teaching.
Beverly’s career spanned more than 50 years. Her remarkable gifts as a teacher and mentor were recognized and honored by the University of Buffalo, where she received the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching and was designated as a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor. Her research interests included the identification and analysis of the ways the nervous system controls muscle activity in both humans and animals. Her experimental work focused on the neural regulation of the respiratory muscles. She taught neurophysiology to nearly 40 classes of physical therapy students and produced monographs and book chapters that became seminal in that area.
When President Joel Seligman hosted an installation and celebration of the professorship, Beverly gave remarks and recalled that she and Charles had been married May 2, 1944—64 years earlier that week. She spoke passionately about her mentors, including Elmer Culler, Gordon Walls, Dr. Karl Lowy, and J. D. Coakley. Coakley’s lab in experimental psychology “provided a teaching method and environment that became the model I have used consistently throughout my teaching over the last half century,” she noted.
Beverly’s professional life was greatly influenced by Drs. Hermann Rahn, Wallace Fenn ’65 (Honorary), and Fred Griffith—“a triumvirate of very astute and clever U of R scientists. Their experimentally derived knowledge about lung function and gas exchange permitted U.S. pilots to soar at altitudes above the enemy.
“Because of the strong and enduring influences U of R has had on our scientific lives, Charles and I feel it is payback time,” she continued. “We want to contribute to its future goals in advancing neuroscience, the field in which I have spent my lifetime.”
That extraordinary life ended Sept. 20, 2008, when Beverly died.
At a lovely memorial service at Buffalo, her colleagues and UB President John Simpson noted that Beverly, at age 85, continued to teach until she was hospitalized the week of her death. Moreover, during those 50 years, Beverly Bishop never missed a single class.
—Michael K. Tanenhaus
Tanenhaus is the Beverly Petterson Bishop and Charles W. Bishop Professor of Brain & Cognitive Sciences and Linguistics and the director of the Center for Language Sciences.