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loses pioneer in athletics, academics, a 'university
June 16, 2004 - MSU University
EAST LANSING, Mich.
Gwendolyn Norrell of East Lansing, who at one time was the highest-ranking
woman in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA),
left her mark nationally and on Michigan State Universitys academic
and athletic programs.
Norrell died Tuesday, June 15, at the age of 84, at St. Lawrence Hospice
Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, June 18, at the MSU Alumni
Memorial Chapel. Gifts may be directed to MSU University Development for
a future scholarship fund.
Through Gwen Norrell the values and spirit of MSU became real in the
experiences of students and her colleagues across campus and across
generations, said MSU Provost Lou Anna K. Simon. Her enormous
caring for students, her unwavering attention to ethics, and her capacity
to take the fundamental land-grant ideals and move them into a modern era
made her a path breaker of great consequence. She made lasting differences
in the lives of individuals and in the MSU community.
Norrell, who joined the MSU faculty in 1945, made important contributions
to almost every aspect of the MSU Counseling Centers program and to
other university services as well. She was a counselor of minority students
and other students needing special assistance, setting high standards for
At a time when MSU was a pioneer in the recruitment of academically
gifted freshmen, Gwen played an important role in the creation of the
universitys Alumni Distinguished Scholarship (ADS) examination,
said Jim Cotter, senior associate director of the Office of Admissions and
Scholarships. Many years before the concept of recruiting scholars
became an accepted practice, her foresight served as a driving force in leading
MSU as a national leader in this area.
Lee June, vice president of student affairs and services, said Norrell was
one of the first persons he met when he came to the university nearly 31
Norrell was a pioneer and innovator in many areas, such as the early
development of the MSU Counseling Center and the development of the Testing
Center, June said. She was a leader in outreach efforts in the
Detroit area in terms of diversity interests and played an important role
in the Honors College. Gwen Norrell was one of the most down-to-earth persons
I have known she was a university jewel.
Norrell was the first woman to serve as a faculty athletic representative
in the Big Ten Conference, and possibly the nation, when she was named to
that position in 1979. A professor and assistant director of MSUs
Counseling Center, she served as the faculty athletics representative until
her retirement in 1988.
She was at the forefront of integrating womens athletics at both
the Big 10 Conference and NCAA levels, said Michael Kasavana, professor
of hospitality business and Norrells successor as MSU faculty athletic
representative. She was a strong proponent for student-athlete welfare
and had the unique ability to negotiate complex issues with university
presidents, athletic directors and faculty colleagues. She set a very high
standard for faculty athletic representatives nationally and in the Big
"As well as her involvement in university recruitment, Gwen was a friend
to all student athletes. Her business-like demeanor was most often accompanied
by a broad smile and engaging manner, Cotter said. She will long
be remembered as a dedicated teacher, an insightful administrator and one
who processed the ability to promote change and unify individuals of diverse
backgrounds and opinions.
Norrell served two terms on the MSU Athletic Council prior to becoming the
faculty athletic representative and served as vice president of the NCAA
during the 1983-84 and 84-85 academic years. In 1973 she received the MSU
Distinguished Faculty Award and in 1976 was presented with the MSU Honorary
Alumnus Award. She also received the Faculty Womens Award for Excellence
Norrell has a prestigious scholar-athlete award named in her honor, was president
of the Michigan College Personnel Association and chaired a special committee
on academic research. She was a member of the American Psychologists, the
American Personal Guidance Association and the Michigan Personal Guidance
Born Nov. 12, 1919, in Eudora, Ark., she earned her bachelor of science degree
in history from Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville in 1942, her
masters degree in counseling from the Teachers College at Columbia
University and her Ed.D degree in counseling from the University of Colorado
Survivors include her niece, Susan Cossey, Monticello, Ark; and two nephews,
Mark Cashion of McGhee, Ark., and Ward Cashion of Covington, La.