Dr. Nancy J. Bachman, 61, Otego; Professor, Pioneering Researcher


Dr. Nancy J. Bachman, 61, Otego;

Professor, Pioneering Researcher

Nancy J. Bachman

OTEGO – Dr. Nancy Jane Bachman, 61, a reseacher and, more recently, SUNY Oneonta biology professor, passed away at home on May 22, 2018, after battling Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer.

Nancy was born in Walnut Creek, Calif., on April 24, 1957. She was the first of five children born to Muriel (née Fry) Bachman and Jack Bachman. Muriel was a teacher, homemaker and educational pioneer. Jack was a PhD researcher, professor and collegiate athletics coach.

Nancy was an active wife, sister, aunt, niece and cousin, supporting, loving and cheering her family with all her heart. 

She is survived by her husband of 34 years, Andrew Abler; her aunt, Shirley Brisacher and her daughters; and her four siblings and their families, Paul (Lori), Carol (Sterling), David (Naomi) and Steven (Angel); Steven is nicknamed Tooter because, as a small boy, he liked the story of “The Little Engine that Could.” She has three nieces, Ellie Cathman, Josephine Bachman, and Elizabeth Abler and five nephews, Kellen Bachman, Kendrick Bachman, Spencer Cathman, Finn Cathman and Diego Bachman.

When Nancy was a child, the Bachman family moved from Northern California to St. Paul, Minn., when her father accepted a position at Macalester College as professor of kinesiology, and the swim and tennis coach.

Nancy attended an alternative middle and high school, St. Paul Open School, where students designed their curriculum in collaboration with the teachers. This experience developed her independence as a scholar. While still in high school, she earned income by working at the Minnesota State Fair and at the grill at Kmart. She often said she enjoyed the grill and the companionship of her co-workers.

She attended Macalester College for her under graduate education. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a Chemistry core, graduated summa cum laude and was nominated to Phi Beta Kappa and Iota Sigma Pi, the national honor society for outstanding women chemists. She had a wonderful mentor at Macalester, the biochemist Kathy Parsons, who encouraged her path to graduate school over the objections of two male professors. As a female scientist, sexism was a barrier Nancy defeated using the best tools she had – deep, insightful intelligence and a strong work ethic.

At Macalester, Nancy was a member of the women’s swim team. Her favorite events were breaststroke, distance freestyle and the medley relay. She was an avid fan of Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Janet Evans; who used the straight-arm-return style in her swimming stokes, just as Nancy did. In middle age, Nancy took up swimming again and competed in age-group racing in New York and in the national masters and seniors swimming events. She represented New York at the 2015 National Senior Games.

Nancy received her Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan, where she began her lifelong study of cellular organelle biogenesis and function. Lawrence Grossman and Margaret Lomax supervised her dissertation research. Nancy was among the first to clone and sequence the cDNA for a nuclear encoded mitochondrial protein, subunit 4 of cytochrome oxidase. Nancy is a first generation (F1) molecular biologist, as she began her training shortly after the moratorium on the use of recombinant DNA technology was lifted. She conducted postdoctoral research at Northwestern University, where she discovered that a bidirectional promotor regulated the gene encoding subunit 4, a surprising observation. The neighboring gene regulated by this promotor eventually led her to study the stress response of cells.

On Aug. 16, 1984, Nancy married Andrew Abler in Ann Arbor, Mich. They met as graduate students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They were married 33 years and lived in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Upstate New York. Favorite activities they enjoyed together include hiking, vacations to Maine, folk concerts, art fairs, WAMC Roundtable, masters swim meets, HGTV and Masterpiece Theater.

Nancy taught various biology courses at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., Clarkson University in Potsdam, and Hamilton College,  before joining the SUNY Oneonta faculty in the fall of 1999. At SUNY Oneonta, she revised genetics, developed the third semester cell biology course, revised the non-majors general biology course to be more topical, developed a biology of cancer course, and served as adviser to the Biology Club.

She enjoyed teaching non-majors and laboratories most of all. She believed that laboratories were an essential part to teaching students how we know. With so many families affected by cancer, Nancy felt her Biology of Cancer course provided an important source of information for students and may have been her single most important contribution to the SUNY Oneonta’s biology curriculum.

Nancy was a founding member of the SUNY Oneonta’s chapter of Beta Beta Beta (tri-beta) National Biological Honor Society. She was a recipient of the Siegfried Prize for junior faculty research in 2000 and she was one of 38 faculty recognized at the second annual “Chancellor’s Recognition Dinner Honoring Research in Science, Engineering and Medicine” in 2002. While at SUNY Oneonta, Nancy was awarded two grants from the National Institute of Health, which supported her undergraduate research program and enabled her students to travel and present at numerous meetings. These trips were a highlight for both her and her students. In fact, a student’s parent even got involved on one trip, helping drive Nancy’s laboratory students to a big cell biology meeting in Philadelphia a few years ago.

Nancy had many joys. She loved her family, friends and church; she loved swimming and sailing (her father taught her how to sail); she loved Lake Tahoe, Lake Placid, and the coast of Maine; she loved gardening at her house in Otego; she loved cooking Indian food; she loved singing in the choir at Elm Park United Methodist Church; she loved reading Jane Austen (Persuasion was her favorite novel); she loved Colin Firth, James Taylor, Carole King, Natalie Merchant, Tracey Chapman and Mustard’s Retreat. Her favorite line from a movie was spoken by Claude Raines in Casablanca: “I’m shocked — shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” And Downton Abbey … she loved Downton Abbey, although she never forgave Dan Stevens for leaving the show — and her husband believed she identified a bit too much with Lady Mary Crawley. Lastly, she loved being a college professor and mentoring students as they discovered the wonder of scientific investigation.

The memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, June 9, 2018 at Elm Park United Methodist Church, 401 Chestnut St., Oneonta, with the Rev. Donna Martin, officiating.

In lieu of flowers, Nancy’s family requests that donations be made in her memory to any of the following: Doctors without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Macalester College and the SUNY Oneonta biology department.

To send an online condolence, visit, www.lhpfuneralhome.com


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