H. Wilbert Norton was president of Trinity College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Bannockburn in the 1950s and 1960s during a period of considerable growth for the schools, and he later was a professor and graduate school dean at Wheaton College.
Norton was an influential leader not just in theological education but also in the training of Christian missionaries.
Norton, 102, died of natural causes Feb. 20 at his home in Tahlequah, Okla., his son Will said.
The son of Swedish immigrants grew up in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood and graduated in 1932 from Senn High School, where he was class president. He attended Crane Junior College for a year and then transferred to Wheaton College, where he received a bachelor's degree in history and anthropology in 1936.
Norton studied at Columbia Bible Seminary in Columbia, S.C., where he met his future wife, Colene. From 1940 until 1949, Norton and his wife were missionaries in the Belgian Congo. They were on furlough in the Chicago area from 1945 until 1947, during a period when he helped launch a missions conference that eventually would become InterVarsity's triennial missions conference. Also while on furlough, Norton began pursuing a doctoral degree from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1949, the couple returned to the U.S., and Norton taught for a semester at Columbia Bible College. The next year, Norton was hired as a professor at what was then Trinity Seminary and Bible College. He soon became the school's dean of education and then its president. In 1955, Norton completed his doctoral degree in church history at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Newsmakers and celebrities with Chicago ties who died in 2017.
Under Norton's leadership, what is now Trinity International University moved its campus in 1961 from the North Side to a 79-acre parcel in Bannockburn. Norton also increased the school's enrollment significantly and created a liberal arts program.
After leaving Trinity in 1964, Norton took seminars at the University of Chicago and then joined the faculty of Wheaton College's graduate school in 1965. Six years later, Norton was named dean of Wheaton's graduate school. While at Wheaton, Norton created a missions program that was similar to one he set up at Trinity. In both cases, the program's goal was to provide intercultural education for those who were to become missionaries.
"He was so grateful for what the students did after they left Wheaton," Will Norton said.
Norton retired from Wheaton in 1980 and moved to Nigeria, where he spent three years serving as the founding principal of a seminary. After returning to the U.S., Norton worked from 1983 until 1989 as the executive director of the Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas.
Newsmakers and celebrities who died in 2017.
In 1989, Norton joined the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss., as a professor of missions. He remained at the seminary and transferred to a newly opened campus in Charlotte, N.C., in 1994. He retired in 2003 at age 88.
"Everyone loved him and just enjoyed being around him," said Robert "Ric" Cannada, chancellor emeritus of Reformed Theological Seminary. "I appreciated his steady, wise counsel, and I also appreciated his commitment to prayer and dependence on God to bless what we were doing."
Rod Culbertson, dean of student development at Reformed Theological Seminary, described Norton as "always upbeat, positive and outgoing. He was one of a kind."
Norton's wife died in August. Norton is survived by two other sons, Peter and Seth; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
Services were held.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.
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