Tributes to Honor Idaho Registered Dietitian, Shirley Ann Newcomb 1923 – 2016

This year, the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is honoring Idaho Registered Dietitians who are the Food and Nutrition Leaders in the communities they serve. Registered Dietitians work in a variety of settings including health promotion organizations, public health programs, medical facilities, businesses and educational institutions. Along with dietetics, most of these Registered Dietitian are also leaders where they live, volunteering in their communities and serving in leadership roles.

Today, we continue to honor one of those Dietitians who has had a significant impact on the field of Dietetics as well as her community. This Idaho Registered Dietitian is Shirley Ann Newcomb. Last week, we honored Shirley’s many accomplishments as a Dietitian, Home Economics Professor, and Community Member. To learn more about these accomplishments, please check out our last week’s blog article at:


Even though Shirley is no longer with us, her contribution to the field of dietetics and to her students still lives on. Today, we will be hearing from these students as well as her peers who were impacted by her work:


Shirley Newcomb was my mentor and special friend for all these years (I graduated in 1966).  Shirley was professional and compassionate, and worked to instill those values in her students.  Her door was always open.  She cheered on this science-oriented soul through traumatic weaving experiences in Art Structure and Design, and having to give up a senior semester in my sorority house for a life of domestic adventure in the home management house.  Shirley spurred me on to finish my degree in dietetics, and to intern at the University of Michigan Hospitals.  She’d be pleased to know that after 40 years in the hospital setting, and 50 years of being a dietitian, I’m still employed, and in her field, education. 

One of Shirley’s greatest delights (besides the prime rib dinners at the Best Western) was the time she spent as housemother in the home management house, early in her University of Idaho career.  She loved her home management girls, and had many tales to tell about the antics that went on in that house.   Shirley also liked to collect her Idaho graduates for get-togethers at professional meetings.  And she treasured visits to and from her mid-western family, and her students. 

I was fortunate to get to spend two afternoons with Shirley a year ago.  She was in a wheelchair, in her own home, and was, as always, organized.  She had yellow Post-Its everywhere as reminders of things to be done by both her and her caregivers.  In her Christmas cards, she always teased Pete about bringing me over the mountain to see her.   It was a very sad day last year when, as I was addressing her Christmas card, I found out that she had died.  We will miss you, Shirley.  You made such a difference in the lives of your students.

-Carolyn Templeton M.S., R.D.


When I began my education as a Freshman as a Food and Nutrition Major at the University of Idaho, Miss Newcomb was my counselor for the next 4 years.  I always felt that I could discuss any of my educational needs at any time. She always provided good support. She was a very important influence in my life.

During my Junior and Senior years, she taught our food service management and quantity food preparation and food service classes.

When I was ready to apply for my internship, she insisted that I apply east of the Mississippi River. As a result, I chose to go to The Society of New York Hospital In New York City. That was a wonderful experience. I probably would not have gone to the East Coast if Miss Newcomb had not recommended it.

After I finished my internship, for the next 30+ years, I lived and worked in Utah and California. Over these years, I saw her at various meetings and enjoyed visiting with her. When she attended the annual ADA meetings, she always planned a gathering of the Idaho graduates. It was fun to visit with her and all of the dietitians who were attending that had graduated from Idaho. When I returned to Idaho in 1993, I saw her several times when I was in Moscow. She was always interested is what was going on in my life.

-Beverly Crabbs


Shirley Newcomb—mentor, guru, guide!

How grateful I am for this opportunity to reflect on my life and how blessed I was to have Shirley Newcomb in it!  

I remember arriving at Shirley’s office in late August 1979 as a non-traditional student, with family in tow.  My transcript included an assortment of Home Ec, Math and Science credits from Idaho State University.  Nutrition was what I wanted to study but I didn’t want to be a hospital dietitian.  How then could such diverse credits be fashioned into a nutrition related degree leading to rewarding employment?   

As she did with all of her students Shirley warmly welcomed me with her genuine caring and nurturing spirit and took on the challenge.   Based on my BS in Foods & Nutrition Research she designed a Traineeship through which I became an RD.

Over the years I became her protégé and observed her develop programs of study to meet individual student needs.  I wasn’t special; she mentored ALL of her students in a similar manner. Hers wasn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to education.  She was totally devoted to all of us and our success in the world.

I will always think of Shirley as my guru–a mentor in the truest sense of the word who helped me find my niche and a very fulfilling career.

-Darlene Rowe


Shirley Newcomb was the first person in my long career who exemplified what now is known as “Servant Leadership”.  John Quincy Adams said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. 

Shirley led by interacting with people in a consistently caring manner….thus servant leadership.

Shirley taught, inspired, advocated for and grew many people over the course of her career at the University of Idaho. Her active involvement with the American Dietetic Association (as it was known while she was working) set strategy & direction for the future of the Dietetic profession.

To the members of the Idaho Academy…as a Dietetic professional practicing in the State of Idaho, whether you knew her, knew “of her”, or didn’t know her at all…I guarantee she impacted your career in some way. I will always be grateful that she was part of my life.

-Chris Shelden


I was just 20 years old when Ms. Newcomb called me into her office, after hearing that two of my classmates in the University of Idaho/Eastern Washington State University CCUPD Program had decided to discontinue their plans and pursue paths other than nutrition and dietetics.  These two young women did not want to make the necessary move from Moscow to Spokane to continue in the CCUPD Program.  Their reasons surrounded Greek row sorority criteria requiring them to stay on the U of Idaho’s campus to acquire membership status.

Ms. Newcomb was baffled that any young woman, in the year 1985, would allow a person or organization to define her career plans, let alone her address.  She said, “when I was your age, I had to choose between a profession and a family.  In the dorm rooms where I attended school, I was told when to eat, when to sleep, when to study, and who I could date.  I didn’t have the choices young women have today.  Today, you can have the professional and the personal life you want……you can have it all!!”  She could not understand why anyone would limit herself in such a way.

Over the last 32 years, I do not know if I agree with the sentiment we had about “having it all”, but Ms. Newcomb’s outlook certainly woke me up.  I was sitting across a desk from someone who was not only educated with a master’s degree, but had done so in a time where that was particularly unusual for women.  This was a lady who made, what society defined as, a necessary choice at the time.  A courageous choice that did not even cross the minds of most young women my age.  No wonder she was confused……even perhaps angry……at the limits one would place on her future.  I was overwhelmed by her words and her emotion.  And she envied me.  Wow!

Thank you, Ms. Newcomb, for your extraordinary contributions to furthering the profession of nutrition and dietetics, your passion for and support of your students, and your leadership in this industry.  You are missed.

-Caroline Keegan, MBA RDN


I was privileged to have Ms. Newcomb as my major professor and mentor.  I recall fondly the “professionalism” lecture she delivered to her students (be on time, be dressed appropriately, be prepared, be respectful, be confident, bring your best effort).  After graduation, I stayed in contact and she mentored me throughout my career.  I was amazed at how much she knew about what her former students were doing every time I visited her over the past 34 years. I was blessed to visit her a couple weeks before she passed. She was watching her beloved Nebraska football team.

It is my opinion that all dietitians in Idaho owe Ms. Newcomb, and her contemporaries, a debt of gratitude. We enjoy the profession we have today because of their foresight, leadership, and vision of the future. Her vision and work to create the CUPD program is a true legacy.

Now that I have sent two sons to the University of Idaho, I fully appreciate the value of the CUPD program.  I graduated able to sit the RD exam after 4 years of college expenses – great ROI!

Working throughout my career with talented, knowledgeable RDs/RDNs throughout Idaho, I realize the contribution Ms. Newcomb made in securing our futures.  She helped to assure a steady, well-educated workforce of dietitians to serve the people of Idaho and beyond. 

-Laura Thomas, MED, RD, LD, FAND


I remember Shirley Newcomb for her strong commitment to her students and to the profession, and for her sense of humor.  She continued to support her graduates, and was always very proud of them.  She was also an activist in the anti-hunger movement, gathering signatures for a petition in northern Idaho to support legislative work of the Idaho Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger.  She touched many lives.

-Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD, LD


I remember Shirley was such a kind and loyal person to her students. We all knew that we came first and that she would do whatever she could to help us become the best dietitian possible. She had a good sense of humor and used to say that her students were like her family and that while she could correct her students, no one else had better correct them. I am sorry that she has passed but certainly she made a real difference in this world!

-Marla Braendle, RDN, LD, CNSC


I met Shirley in 1975 when I attended my first Idaho Dietetic Association Meeting.   She always had time for my questions and supported my tenure application at Boise State University.  When the University of Idaho’s Coordinated Program began in 1977, Shirley worked with future students who transferred from Boise State University.  This spirit of love for students and dietetics exemplifies everything Shirley believed in.  On a more personal note, Shirley loved meeting for dinner or lunch at the University Inn whenever I was in Moscow.  She is greatly missed. 

-Elaine Long, PhD, RDN, LD, FAND

Professor Shirley Newcomb was directly responsible for my dietetic training and making me aware of what opportunities were available for dietetic interns.  She recommended an Army Internship Summer Program which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed.  I applied for an Army Dietetic Internship and was accepted at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver, CO.  It was the beginning of a 30-year career in the military as a dietitian.  It was a wonderful and fulfilling career. I am grateful to her for her knowledge, guidance and support.

-Virginia Nelson Smith (Ginny)

*Posted by Rachelle Ausman, RDN, LD (Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Social Media Chair)
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