WSU Alumna and Supporter Neva Abelson Dies

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University alumna and longtime supporter Dr. Neva Martin Ableson died Sept. 26 in Washington, D.C. Abelson and her husband, Philip H. Abelson, have been donors to WSU since 1978. Their primary gifts have been used to create the largest graduate fellowship endowment in the College of Sciences. Every year, approximately 10 incoming graduate students in each of the seven schools and departments within the college are offered $3,000 scholarships. The Abelsons were among WSU’s first President’s Associates, contributors of at least $1,000 to the university annually.

“We have lost a loyal friend of WSU and the College of Sciences,” said Leon J. Radziemski, college of sciences dean. “The careers of many students have been enriched by Neva and Philip’s generous contributions. Because of the Ableson fellowships, WSU science departments are able to aggressively recruit talented graduate students to our programs.”

Abelson, daughter of Virgil and Mary Elizabeth (Parr) Martin, was born in Lamar, Mo., Nov. 19, 1910. In 1934, Abelson was awarded a bachelor’s degree by the State College of Washington (now WSU) and in 1942, an M.D. degree by Johns Hopkins University. After an internship/assistant residency in 1942-43 in the Harriet Lane Home of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, she served as pediatrician in charge of the obstetric nurseries.

In 1944, she went to Boston on a fellowship sponsored under a contract between the Office of Scientific Research and Development and Harvard College. There she and Dr. Louis K. Diamond developed the slide test for Rh antibodies, still a widely-used test that has saved the lives of many infants. At the same time, she was a member of the staff of the School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, attaining the rank of professor of pathology in 1971.

Dr. Abelson wrote a book on blood banking and a number of papers on the diagnosis and treatment of erythroblastosis fetalis, the physiochemical characteristic of the blood group antibodies, and the pathogenesis of rheumatoid joint inflammation. In 1971, she received the Emily Cooley Memorial Award of the American Association of Blood Banks. She received two awards from WSU — in 1988, the College of Sciences Distinguished Achievement Award and, in 1989, the WSU Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award.

In 1936, she married WSU alumnus Philip Abelson, former president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the former editor of Science magazine. Philip Abelson was the first recipient of the WSU Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1962.

In addition to her husband of Washington, D.C, Abelson is survived by her daughter, Dr. Ellen A. Cherniavsky of Silver Spring, Md.; and two grandchildren, John Philip Cherniavsky of Los Altos, Calif., and Neva Anne Cherniavsky of Silver Springs.