When University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg first met H. Lee Noble about 20 years ago, he was impressed both by the businessman's imposing physical presence and his extensive professional accomplishments.
Mr. Noble, who had earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Pitt in 1962, had been serving on the university's board of visitors for the School of Arts and Sciences but it wasn't long before he joined the board of trustees, where his combination of skills would be reflected in his assignments. He ended up serving on the budget and investment committees, but he also spent much of his time on the student affairs committee.
"That's where his heart was. He really believed in education. He believed in helping young people," said Mr. Nordenberg.
Mr. Noble died Wednesday at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Oakland of complications from kidney failure, according to his daughter, Elizabeth Noble of Bethel Park.
A native of Brookline and a graduate of South Hills High School, Mr. Noble managed to meld his passion for science, his business skills and his interest in people into a career that had a broad impact on the region.
His career took him relatively quickly to Mobay Chemical Corp. in Pittsburgh, which was a joint venture of Monsanto and Bayer. Eventually, that would become Miles Laboratories and finally Bayer Corp., as the Pittsburgh-area operation of the German pharmaceuticals and chemicals company was named.
By the time Mr. Noble retired from Bayer in 1998, he held the position of executive vice president and president of the polymers division. In 2010, when he was being recommended as an emeritus trustee for the Pitt board, the university said the polymers division had doubled in sales to $2 billion and completed four major acquisitions during his tenure. He also chaired the board of Fluorous Technologies Inc. and was the CEO of Noble Consulting.
"He loved the business part of it," said his daughter, but her father was also proud of having his name on a number of patents, including one for a polyurethane product used on baseball bats.
Mr. Noble served on the board of directors of UPMC from 1999 to 2007, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. In his roles with the university and the regional alliance, he was helpful in offering a business leader's perspective on the commercialization of technology, said Mr. Nordenberg.
"He really was committed to the advancement of the regional economy," said Mr. Nordenberg.
Mr. Noble also served as chairman of Life's Work of Western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Project for Employment for Persons with Disabilities.
In recent years, he spent more time in Florida, where fishing and attending Boston Red Sox spring training games were favorite activities. Family was important, too, and he enjoyed spending time in the summers with his children and their families at a vacation home on the New Jersey shore.
That home was damaged in last year's Superstorm Sandy, but the family was rebuilding it. "He got to see it almost finished," Ms. Noble said.
In addition to his daughter, Elizabeth, Mr. Noble is survived by his wife of 53 years, Patricia Noble of Peters; two other daughters, Juliana Giles of Green Tree and Jennifer Chambers of Coudersport; one son, Andrew Noble of Oakmont; his sister, Susan Steider of Upper St. Clair; and nine grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Beinhauer Mortuary, Peters. Memorial contributions may be made to the H. Lee Noble Scholarship Fund at the University of Pittsburgh, 128 N. Craig St., Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
Teresa F. Lindeman: email@example.com or at 412-263-2018.