Dean of Students at Wabash
I was grateful to represent the College at the service for my close friend
Norman at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Philadelphia on January
21. Designed by his wife Connie and four adult children, Allison, Martha,
Charlie and Patrick, the service was high Anglican following the Common
Prayer liturgy. After a splendid brass choir concert, a full dress ceremonial
processional ushered in a service with Biblical readings, hymns, creeds
and formal prayers. There was no homily, no eulogy, virtually nothing
personal. He would have loved it!
He would hate the imaginary scenario that follows. Imagine the Wabash
Chapel filled with devoted former students from the mysterious, not-by-any-book
25-year reign of Dean Norman (or No Man See More, as they
called him). If Norman were there, he would sit in the back corner on
the aisle, hands clasped over his cane, and at the first laudatory mention
of his name he would be out the door in a flash. If he were forced to
stay, when a comment was made from the podium that he disapproved of,
he would cough, clear his throat, audibly exhale, and whisper an aside
that the whole chapel would hear. If he were forced to give a speech,
it would be shortreal shortand to the point. Men,
he would say, its time to go home now. And they would
Norman was crisp, curt, cantankerous and canny. He was also prescient,
perceptive, playful, and powerful. He was all-seeing, all-knowing, and,
especially when you were doing something wrong, omnipresent, appearing
as if by magic out of the mist of the night. The glow of the pipe would
appear first, then the tweed hat and coat. Often without a word, hed
check out the scene, wave his hand or cane, grunt, and disappear down
Crawford Street, Princeton scarf flowing behind him. Order restored, another
Norman was the perfect dean for a mens college. On the outside he
was gruff, stern and tough. It was no coincidence that he had been a defensive
guard at Princeton and coached the single wing to Wabash, a throwback
to earlier days. But on the inside he was a softy who had enormous empathy
for young men who were in trouble or in need of a few bucks or a stern
fathers loving limits. He was full of feelings bordering on what
he would have called weakness. Masking the inside, he observed external
forms. Thus, order was kept, and a College for men ran smoothly. He was
the perfect Dean for men for the era from 1959-1984.
The dozens of stories that flowed into the College upon word of Normans
death focused on three kinds of events, yet each had a common theme: trust.
Whether breaking up a fight, asking a student to leave for a semester,
or making a loan, Norman exuded total trust (he didnt keep records)
that the student would reform, repay, and be restored fully to the community.
No questions asked; no explanations needed.
Norman talked tough but he loved Wabash students. They were scared to
death of him, yet loved him back. And so did I.
Peter Frederick, Professor of History
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