Remembering treasured George Williams College professor Dr. Jeanne Norris

Dr. Jeanne NorrisAurora University is saddened to announce the death of Dr. Jeanne Ethel Norris. She was a remarkable and beloved professor who taught physiology at George Williams College for 26 years, from 1959 to 1985. She died on Saturday, May 12, at age 90.

Jeanne was born in Randolph, Massachusetts, to James and Jennie (MacKinnon) Norris on January 30, 1928.

She earned a Bachelor of Music at Boston University in 1951 and a Master’s Degree in Education there in 1956. In 1975, she received a PhD in Physiology from Loyola University of Chicago.

At GWC, she was not only a professor but also director of the Division of Health and Natural Sciences. There, she was instrumental in developing the Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and the RN to BSN degrees. She also published in the area of human physiology. She was considered a wonderful professor, very tough but also an excellent teacher. In January, on her 90th birthday, GWC alumni throughout the country honored her.

During Coming Home weekend in 2012, she received a Spirit Award, presented to individuals who demonstrate “love of and devotion to the ideals and people of the institution and the nurturing of the Spartan spirit in all of us.”

In 2013, GWC alumni and friends established the Jeanne Norris Scholarship Fund to honor her years of devotion to GWC students. The scholarship provides support to undergraduate or graduate students attending GWC. She infused her work with intellectual curiosity and an intrinsic commitment to excellence, and for this reason, the Jeanne Norris Award for Excellence in Teaching was also named for her.

Jeanne was a lifelong learner. Among her many interests were music, aquatics, carpentry and woodworking, painting, playing bridge, and horsemanship. She was a member of the faculty of the First Aid, Water Safety, and Accident Prevention School conducted by the American National Red Cross. She also was an early pioneer of campus computing. Since her retirement from teaching in 1993, she continued to expand her knowledge of technology, building a successful business called Computer Tutors and teaching courses in areas such as the Windows operating system, safe practices on the Internet, and solving common computer programs.

“I recall vividly my visit to her home in Maine a number of years ago,” said Aurora University President Rebecca L. Sherrick. “She sat in a comfortable chair, surrounded by books and music scores, as our conversation unfolded. I learned of students tutored at her kitchen table, pioneering medical research and experiences at College Camp.

“And then we adjourned to a lunch of lobster rolls and strawberry shortcake.

“One of my own goals was to persuade Jeanne to return to the George Williams College campus. And, as we parted, she promised to try. The time that Jeanne spent with us on her whirlwind visit months later was remarkable and restorative. My hope – and belief – is that she left Williams Bay knowing that her beloved GWC was indeed flourishing once again.

“Last weekend, we celebrated another GWC commencement under a brilliant blue sky. Almost 200 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees. As the ceremony ended, we spoke again of the legacy of George Williams College, the promises and commitments nurtured over the years by teachers such as Jeanne Norris. May it always be so.”

Jeanne is survived by her nephew, John Norris of Chatham, New Hampshire, and countless friends and family across the country.

Per Jeanne’s request, a “Meeting of Family and Friends” party in remembrance of her will be scheduled for a later date.

Donations in her memory may be made to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals in Windham, Maine, or to the Jeanne Norris Endowed Scholarship. Contributions to the scholarship fund should be sent to George William College, 350 Constance Blvd., P.O. Box 210, Williams Bay, WI 53191-0210.