In Memoriam: Dean Norris

It is with sadness we report the passing of Professor Emeritus Dean R. Norris, a 26-year faculty member and leader in what was then the Department of Oceanography and Ocean Engineering.

Dr. Norris passed away on June 12 after a lengthy illness, according to his wife, Marcene Norris.

Hired in 1975, Dr. Norris, an oceanographer and researcher on marine plankton, was a “pillar” in the department, his colleague and fellow Professor Emeritus, John Trefry, Ph.D., recalled. He served as deputy department chair for many years and filled in as department head.

“He loved to teach and investigate microscopic ocean life,” Trefry said.

His passion, research and academic achievements in this area landed him the ultimate honor: The dinoflagellate Prorocentrum norrisianum was named after him. The honor was bestowed by Smithsonian Institution scientist Maria Faust in an article in the Journal of Phycology, who noted Dr. Norris’s “achievements on the physiological ecology of marine dinoflagellates in tropical oceans.”

Trefry added, “He was a gentle soul who was loved by students, faculty and staff. Students were very important to him, and he had some very good graduate students.”

Dr. Norris mentored over 30 graduate students at Florida Tech.

Professor Emeritus John Windsor, Ph.D., who also worked with Dr. Norris, remembered a calm and even-tempered colleague known for his positive demeanor. “He would be greeted with smiles and hugs by many,” Windsor said.

His kindness ran deep.

Windsor said it is common that the duty of serving on administrative committees was distributed to the most recent hires. Not for Dr. Norris. “He chose to serve on many university committees in order to permit new faculty the opportunity to develop their research programs,” he said.

Trefry remembers Dr. Norris inviting him, his wife and his two young children to the safety of his inland home as Hurricane David blew through the region in 1979.

“He has been missed over the years that he has been retired,” Trefry said. “I, and so many others, have fond memories of his long tenure at Florida Tech.”

Dr. Norris retired from Florida Tech in May 2001, leaving what had become the Department of Marine and Environmental Systems. The prior month he had been named Most Valuable Panther.

“Dean is almost a one-man history of ocean science at Florida Tech,” then-department head George Maul said in an article announcing Dr. Norris’s retirement.

Among the important matters to tend to as he wrapped up his remarkable tenure was to cede his popular jar filled with hard candies, lollipops and always-chosen-first chocolates to John Windsor.

“Although officially he kept it filled to offer students candy on their visits, as many faculty came for candy as students,” Windsor said.

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