UC Irvine Center for Statistical Consulting founding director, social sciences senior lecturer and 45-year member of the UCI community
Robert “Bob” L. Newcomb, founding director of the UC Irvine Center for Statistical Consulting and 45-year member of the UCI community, passed away on July 10 at the age of 81.
Newcomb received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He joined the UC Irvine faculty in 1969 as a lecturer in social sciences, a position he held until his retirement in 2006. During that period, he served as acting associate dean of both undergraduate and graduate studies in social sciences. Throughout his more than four decades of service to UC Irvine, he made an immeasurable impact on students and faculty through his teaching, mentorship and statistical research support.
As a teacher, he introduced the field of statistics to thousands of students. His effectiveness in the classroom, passion for learning and dedication to mentoring inspired and guided generations of students who became leaders in academics and industry. In 1980, he won the UCI Alumni Association's Distinguished Teaching Award for his work in social sciences and education.
In 1996, Newcomb founded the UCI Center for Statistical Consulting, serving as director until 2011. From 2000-10, he also served as director of the Biostatistics and Informatics Core of UCI's National Institutes of Health-funded General Clinical Research Center. In 2010, he transitioned to the role of director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design Unit within UCI’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science.
He played a critical role in forming the Department of Statistics in 2002 which now houses the Center for Statistical Consulting and supports Newcomb’s student-focused vision of statistical instruction and career readiness training. In 2012, the department established an annual lecture and graduate fellowship in his honor.
Although he officially retired in 2006, Newcomb’s dedication to his students, UCI and the community continued. In retirement, he served as director of ICTS’s biostatistics unit. He established the Orange County Long Beach Chapter of the American Statistical Association and served as its founding president. He also continued to teach statistics courses at UCI, completing his last course in the spring quarter of 2014 several weeks before his passing.
Newcomb’s lifelong dedication to supporting UCI student athletes is legendary. He founded the UC Irvine men's volleyball program in 1970 and held the title of head coach through 1975. He was commissioner of the Southern California Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, later renamed the Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, from 1975-92. He wrote the initial proposal and lobbied for the establishment of the Men's Collegiate Volleyball Grants Program in 1988. He served on the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship Committee from 1989-92, holding the title of chair in 1990, while continuing to mentor student-athletes.
He is survived by his wife, Betty, daughters Jhyl Mumford and Dale Marcikic, son Scott Newcomb, brother David Newcomb, and many loving grandchildren, relatives, friends, colleagues and students. He will be remembered for his exceptional warmth, collegiality, vision and dedication to generating new knowledge that improves the lives of people throughout the world.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to:
The Robert L. Newcomb Graduate Fellowship Fund
The Robert Newcomb Student Award for Men’s Volleyball