Celebrating Eva Noles

The first African-American woman to train and graduate as a Registered Nurse in Buffalo, NY, who then went on to become a Nursing Educator and the Director of Nursing at the world-renowned Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Eva M. Noles is a registered nurse, a nursing educator, and a former Director of Nursing at Buffalo, New York’s world-renowned Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The first African-American nurse to train in Buffalo, Eva actually retired twice only to come back to train many people how to provide various levels of healthcare. She was with Roswell Park Cancer Institute Park for over 30 years, serving in many capacities.

Eva Malinda Noles was born Eva Bateman in Cleveland, Ohio on April 5, 1919.  Her family settled in Buffalo, New York in1928. She graduated from Hutchinson Central High School in 1932. After high school, Eva began thinking about her future. For a young African-American woman in the 1900s, options were usually limited to such things as house cleaning, cooking or child-rearing.

As part of a dare from a friend, Eva courageously applied and was accepted to the E. J. Meyer Memorial Hospital School of Nursing (now Erie County Medical Center) after high school. Although she was admitted into the nursing program, Eva was not fully accepted in the school and encountered many subtle forms of racial prejudice, even right up to graduation.

In 1940, she finished at the top of her class and became the first African-American woman to be trained as a registered nurse in Buffalo. However, prejudice didn’t end with her diploma from the school of nursing. It followed her into her first years of working at her profession. After establishing herself in the field, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing in 1962 and a Master of Arts degree in Education in 1967 from the University at Buffalo.

After stints at EJ Meyer Memorial, Sisters and Columbus Hospitals, Eva was hired as a staff nurse at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 1945. Eva credits Roswell Park in allowing her to realize her professional aspirations.

Eva founded the New York State Nurses Week in 1970, which has been celebrated ever since from May 24th to the 30th.

She climbed through the ranks, breaking race barriers at every step, until she became the director of nursing in 1971. Over this time, Eva had opportunities to work with renowned Roswell Park doctors and researchers.

Eva Noles dedicated her life to nursing, but also to community service and outreach. She served on many local and national committees, including the NYS Board of Nursing and the  American Nurses Association. She also served on the Buffalo General Hospital Board of Trustees and the Community Mental Health.

She has received many awards for her dedicated community service, including the Uncrowned Queens Institute’s Culture Keepers award for outstanding contributions to African-American culture in Western New York, which she received in 2002.

Eva is the author of several publications, including Buffalo’s Blacks: Talking Proud and Black History: A Different Approach. Eva credits the lack of real and truthful history collection and story-telling on the local African-American experience as her reasons of becoming an author several years ago. In 1974, Eva retired from Roswell Park. Despite retirement, however, Eva continued working with the federal government that trained nurse practitioners, as well as joining Medical Personal Pool as a home care supervisor, where she was later appointed as a staff developer for the firm

Eva, who now resides in Williamsville, New York, continues to be an inspiration for many people. She continues to be referred to as the consummate example of inspiration and determination for many.

Even after her retirement, Eva still spends much of her time helping others. Struggling against impressive odds and coming out on top has been a pattern for her, but she insists it has been more than a matter of luck.

Many people throughout the Buffalo-community, in an effort to thank her for her years of service in the field of health and her commitment in making the city that she loves a better place to live for so many, have organized efforts to create a college scholarship in her name, that will be awarded annually to a deserving student aspiring for a career in health. Roswell Park will also name a nursing training room at its campus in her honor.