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UC Irvine Athletics | August 5, 2014

UCI volleyball pioneer Newcomb dies

Dr. Robert (Bob) Newcomb
IRVINE, Calif. -- Dr. Robert (Bob) Newcomb, one of the leading ambassadors for UC Irvine volleyball and collegiate volleyball in general, passed away July 10.

He was a driving force in the creation of the UCI men's volleyball program in the 1970s that led to the Anteaters joining the Southern California Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in 1976-77.

Newcomb served as commissioner of the 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 1988-89. Newcomb served on the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship Committee from 1989 to 1992, holding the title of chair starting in 1990. He was founding coach of the UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball program in 1963.

"I am so grateful to have known Bob," UCI men's volleyball head coach David Kniffin said. "He has permeated my life in ways that will be felt by our student-athletes and our campus community for years to come. He was so inclusive, so caring and so passionate. His influence will live on, like infinite ripples on an infinite pond. I am committed to this.

"When someone talked to Bob, they were the only thing in the world that mattered. I am so moved by his selflessness.

"Bob was so humble. I expect that there will be lists of accomplishments that come out concerning Bob. We will all learn about things that he did, ways he shaped our lives that no one knew about. His fingerprints are literally all over UC Irvine and beyond. But it isn't the 'what' that will stick with me. It is the 'how' and the 'why' of his leadership. I do not have the words to express my appreciation for him."

Newcomb's family has asked friends and family who are looking to honor and remember him to make a gift to the "The Robert Newcomb Student Award" that benefits the UC Irvine men's volleyball program. This endowed scholarship fund was established as a means to pay tribute to Newcomb and to acknowledge his storied history with UCI athletics along with the guidance, leadership and mentoring that he provided to so many members of 'Eater Nation. For more information about the Robert Newcomb Student Award for men's volleyball and to make a gift online, click here.

Newcomb, a faculty member at UCI for more than 40 years, was the founding director of the UCI Center for Statistical Consulting (1996-2011) and he played a critical role in forming UCI's Department of Statistics in 2002. The department now houses the Center for Statistical Consulting and supports his vision of introducing statistics to students and encouraging their enthusiasm to follow through on statistics as a career.  In 2012, an annual ecture and the Robert L. Newcomb Graduate Fellowship Fund were established by the UCI Department of Statistics to celebrate his "dedication to providing statistical support to researchers and to advancing the careers of students."

From 2000 to '10 he served as director of the Biostatistics and Informatics Core of UCI's National Institute of Health-funded General Clinical Research Center. In 2010, he transitioned to being the director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design unit within the NIH CTSA-funded UCI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, which replaced the UCI GCRC.

Although Newcomb officially retired in 2006, his dedication to his students, UCI and the community continued. In retirement, he continued to guide the Biostatistics Unit for the ICTS as its director (2010-13). In 2012, he established the Orange County Long Beach Chapter of the American Statistical Association and served as its founding president (2012-14). He continued to teach statistics courses at UCI throughout his retirement, completing his last course in the spring quarter of 2014 several weeks before his passing.