Terry and Bette Noble: Supporting drug development to help save lives and alleviate suffering

2016-annual-report-donor-profileAn ingenious invention that allows pharmacists to easily dilute antibiotics. A simple, elegant, compartmentalized plastic case — inspired by one patient’s creative use of an egg carton — to help people organize their weekly pill regimens. Lifesaving medical jewelry for allergy sufferers, diabetics and heart patients.

These are the innovations that made Apothecary Products — cofounded by College of Pharmacy alum and donor Terry Noble — an international leader in consumer wellness.

The driving spark has always been making it easier for patients to comply with their physicians’ instructions. In his pharmacy practice, Noble often observed how easy it was for things to break down between the prescription pad and the complications of patients’ daily lives.

“We never lost sight of the patient,” Noble says. “How do we make things simpler for patients — and for pharmacists? How do we bridge the gap between the ideal and the real? That was always the keel of the ship.”

That itch to constantly improve patient health has also fueled the Baudette, Minn. native’s quiet philanthropy over the years. With his wife Bette, Noble has made major donations to the College of Pharmacy, supporting research to advance treatment of ovarian cancer and opiate addiction.

“Sixteen years ago, Bette was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer, and they gave her four months to live,” Noble says. “Today — thanks to Taxol, her Mayo Clinic oncologists, and five major surgeries — she’s alive and thrilled to be here.”

As for drug addiction, “it’s something that permeates our society and touches all of our lives.”

He’s grateful for the college’s role nurturing his success and savors the opportunity to give back.

The Nobles have strenuously resisted the spotlight, always making their gifts anonymously. Terry Noble only agreed to be profiled upon learning that this year’s annual report would focus on outgoing Dean Marilyn Speedie, whom he admires and appreciates.

“She always kept after me,” Noble chuckles.

He’s also thankful to her predecessor, Larry Weaver, “a neat guy” who helped make the college the world-class entity it is today, and Frank DiGangi, who was “really instrumental in launching my career.”

Noble treasures his memories of his time at the U. “It was a memorable time and a great environment,” he says.

Among his most vivid memories is living, junior year, in an apartment above the restaurant where he worked. One early morning, after a late night in which Noble — a hockey player — had returned from playing a game in Sioux City, he was awakened by his roommate: their building was on fire.

Noble assumed his roommate was playing a prank and went back to sleep. The roommate returned; “I told him to get out of my room. He came back a third time, and we heard a sound like a broom sweeping, then the whole room exploded.” The two escaped, wrapped in nothing but curtains. All their possessions went up in smoke.

“I lost all my books, all my work. We were right in the middle of final exams. But the profs were terrific,” Noble says, and he had the support to finish the year strong. “The College of Pharmacy was a like a small town; everybody knew each other.”

After graduating in 1966, Noble served in the Marine Corps, then went on to work as a pharmacist for Target. His interaction with patients and passion for problem-solving would turn Noble into a moonlight inventor.

From Apothecary Products’ inception, when Noble tinkered with the Reconstitube prototype in the basement of the bungalow he shared with a pregnant Bette, through its growth into a global standard-bearer, Noble kept the patient’s challenges and needs at the core of their work.

“We listened to patients,” Noble says. “And we never stopped trying to improve — the goal was always to render archaic our last patent.”

Noble sold his company in 2014 and spends the greater part of the year in Naples, Florida where he still plays hockey three times a week, fishes, plays golf, and stays involved with numerous charities through the foundation he and Bette established.

“I’m proud that we helped to solve some of the myriad issues involved with patient compliance and thus improve the health of the patient,” Noble says. “I’m looking forward to continuing that focus through the College of Pharmacy as a donor.”