Memorial Address for Norman Passmore, May 23, 2018
Many people in this room knew Dr. Norman Passmore as a valued colleague, dear friend, and dedicated teacher. I am honored today to spend a moment with you remembering Dr. Passmore, and sharing his legacy. Norman Passmore spent his life learning and teaching others about the things he loved and found beautiful in the world, things like chaos math, calculus, opera, cello, and classic movies.
Norman taught for the University of Delaware for 44 years, almost from the beginning of what was then called The Parallel Program. If you were Norman Passmore's friend and colleague through those years, you undoubtedly have stories about how Norman introduced you to a beautiful piece of music, or suggested a movie for you to watch and then searched all through his chaotic office trying to find the thing.
Though on some campuses, faculty members complain about the ''noise'' generated by a class like Appreciation of Music, Norman not only loved teaching Pre-Calc in the adjoining classroom, but at least once brought his whole math class over to Professor Ames's music class so that they could spend a few minutes listening to Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Norman played the cello and loved both classical music and opera. For a long time, he organized trips to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York so that students (and some benighted faculty members like myself) who had never seen an opera could have an experience he knew as life-changing.
If you were a student of Dr. Passmore's, you have many stories, too, and it is those stories that I want most to share with you because Norman Passmore was a true teacher. For him, teaching was not a job or even a vocation — it was a way of being himself in the world. Those of us who visited him in the final weeks of his life will attest that the thing that concerned him most was that he might never be able to teach again.
A yellowed clipping from a 1995 USA Today article hung in his office, an article about a man named Abe Goldstein whom Norman identified as one of his heroes, a man who at 96 had taught Business Ethics at Baruch College for 66 years — as an adjunct! "'That's me,"' he said. ''I want that to be me.''
The greatest consolation for those of us who loved and cared about Dr. Norman Passmore is the legacy that he leaves behind in the lives of his students. In the last few weeks, his students have shared many, many stories with us, and I want to share just a few of them with you.
Adam Dennis said, ''Dr. Passmore was one of the most important teachers in my life. During my senior year in high school, in the Academic Challenge program, I was ahead of all of the course offerings in math, so Dr. Passmore planned two semesters just for me: Chaos Theory and Numbers Theory.'' Many students talked about his willingness to work with them outside of class: One comment that mirrors many says, ''The man was a genius! He tutored me for three years, and he will be missed dearly.''
Another student reports that she was failing statistics when Dr. Passmore offered to work with her to get her through the class. She not only passed, but passed with the highest GPA in the class, fell in love with statistics and became a government statistician, using the things he taught her every day. Dalton Carter called Dr. Passmore ''a modern-day genius and an excellent teacher.''
Dr. Passmore loved chaos math, and that love spilled over into the not-so-mathematical chaos of his office. However, hanging above his messy desk, Norman had taped this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, a quote that seems particularly fitting as we remember him and as we express our gratitude for how he has touched our lives and the lives of the generations of students that he has taught: ''To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.''
— James Keegan