Elon mourns passing of friend & benefactor Doug Noiles GP '17
Doug and his wife, Edna Truitt Noiles ’44 GP ’17, made a gift to Elon in 2003 to establish the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, and their later support of the Elon Academy has helped dozens of local high school students pursue dreams of a college education.
One of Elon’s most generous benefactors, whose family gifts over the past two decades have played a pivotal role in transforming the university, died Monday at his home in Connecticut.
Doug Noiles GP ’17 passed away Jan. 25, 2016, in New Canaan following a lengthy illness. He and his wife Edna Truitt Noiles ’44 GP ’17 were instrumental in the creation of two signature Elon University programs – the Vera Richardson Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life and the Elon Academy. Their granddaughter, Josephine Gardner, is a current junior at Elon University.
“Doug’s dedication to helping young people grow in mind and spirit will continue to change the lives of countless students for many years to come. I can think of no greater legacy than what Doug and Edna helped create for our campus,” said Elon University President Leo M. Lambert. “Our heavy hearts are with Edna and her family as we mourn the loss of a wonderful man and a loyal friend.”
Doug and Edna Noiles married in 1945 and soon after moved to Worcester, Mass., where Doug completed his degree in mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He then taught engineering at WPI for three years before entering the manufacturing world and making his mark in the area of mechanical development and design.
An inventor at heart, Doug created machinery to manufacture textiles, packaging, automated sewing and electronic television, radio and computer tubes. While working at a division of Westinghouse, he created an innovation to extend the life of television picture tubes from months to years.
In 1970, Doug moved into medical devices. During the next decade, his numerous developments helped the art and science of surgical stapling become a critical component of stomach, lung and intestinal surgery. His exposure to the use of skin staplers in orthopedic surgery led to an interest in joint replacement implants. In 1982, at age 58, he co-founded Joint Medical Products Corp. to develop and market his innovations in hip and knee joint prostheses. As these developments gained acceptance, the company thrived and eventually was purchased by Johnson & Johnson in 1995 when Doug was 71.
“My whole life has been about looking at things and asking, ‘How are they made, and why are they made that way?’” Doug told the Magazine of Elon in 2004. “Edna says I was an engineer before I was born, and I think she’s right.”
Their personal and professional successes inspired the Noileses to make a difference at Elon and in their own community.
“I always felt somebody was looking out for us, which turned out to be true,” Doug said. “That’s why I’m so happy to be with Edna so we can help other people.”
The couple made a major gift in 2003 to endow the Truitt Center to enable students to practice their faiths, explore a variety of religious and spiritual traditions and, as Edna Truitt Noiles described, “to live lives of reconciliation.” The couple decided to make their gift after reading a story in the spring 2003 Magazine of Elon concerning an increased interest in religion and spirituality among Elon students following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Doug and Edna Noiles were also founding donors to the Elon Academy, a comprehensive program that encourages promising high school students with high financial need or no family history of attending college to earn a four-year degree and serve their communities. The couple made several major gifts to support the Academy’s endowment and annual operations, and they were also loyal annual donors to the program.
“It has been very exciting to watch the Elon Academy grow,” Doug said during one visit. “I look back and see how much I was helped during my education, and anything we can do to help these students is on the plus side. By supporting the Elon Academy, we’re showing people that education can be better, and we want to see others recognize the need and step up and support it.”
Doug and Edna’s philanthropic spirit continues to fuel the success of the Elon Academy, which is a model for college access programs. Scholars are selected during their freshman year in high school and spend part of the next three summers on Elon’s campus participating in academic enrichment activities, with weekend programs for scholars and their families throughout the academic year. Scholars are then assisted in their transition to college and receive support while enrolled in a college or university.
Doug and Edna were proud to see so many Elon Academy scholars go on to earn four-year degrees from some of the nation’s finest universities, including Elon, and to be admitted to top graduate programs across the country.
“There’s nothing that is more important than education,” Doug said.