North American Scholar

NORLIN, George

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1871-04-01
  • Born City: Concordia
  • Born State/Country: KS
  • Parents: Gustav Wilhelm & Valborg Fahnenjelm N.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1942-03-30
  • Death City: Boulder
  • Death State/Country: CO
  • Married: Minnie Covert Dutcher, 21 June 1904.
  • Education:

    A.B. Hastings Coll. (NE), 1893; Ph.D. Chicago, 1900; study at U. Paris, 1902; LL.D. Colorado Coll., 1920; U. Missouri, 1921; Litt. D. Columbia, 1932; L.H.D. U. Denver, 1934; D. Eng. (hon.) Colo. State Sch. Mines, 1935.

  • Professional Experience:

    Prof. Gk. Hastings Coll., 1893-6; fell. Gk. U. Chicago, 1896-9; prof. Gk. U. Colorado, 1899-1939; actng. pres. & dean, grad. sch., 1914, 1917-8; pres., 1919-39, 1940; res. prof, hum., 1930-9; Theo. Roosevelt prof. U. Berlin, 1932-3; Weil lctr. U. North Carolina, 1934; trustee Carnegie Found, for Advancement of Teaching.

  • Dissertation:

    "Cosmogonical Theories of the Greeks" (Chicago, 1900)

  • Publications:

    "Ethnology and the Golden Age," CP 12 (1917) 351-64; "Conventions of the Pastoral Elegy," AJP 32 (1911) 294-312; Integrity in Education and Other Papers (New York, 1926); Isocrates (trans.), LCL, 3 vols. (New York & London, 1928-45); Fascism and Citizenship (Chapel Hill, 1934); Things in the Saddle: Selected Essays and Addresses (Cambridge, 1940); Quest of American Life (Boulder, CO, 1945).

  • Notes:

    Norlin, a student of Paul Shorey at Chicago, quickly established a reputation for himself at the University of Colorado as a first-rate scholar and teacher known for the clarity of his rhetoric, his Socratic method, and his multi-faceted Aristophanic sense of humor. Seen by his colleagues as a "renaissance man," he was an athlete (boxer, swimmer, hiker, angler, tennis player), cook, poker player, and writer of poetry, as well as a skilled translator of Greek literature and analyst of contemporary issues in education and politics. Promoted rapidly, he had to reject the offer of a chair in classics at the University of Chicago when he became permanent president of the University of Colorado, continuing in his administration to devote energy to intellectual efforts, speaking publicly, and writing essays on a wide variety of scholarly and contemporary topics (-inter alia opposing the Ku Klux Klan and Hitler's Nazism). His administration is remembered today as largely responsible for the growth of the physical plant even during the deep Depression and the establishment of a uniform Northern Italian architectural design for the campus known as the "Colorado style." After retirement, Norlin devoted his time to a book describing farm life in Kansas in the 1870s-1880s, where his family homestead was attacked and burned by Indians.Seen as one of the truly intellectual university presidents of his time, Norlin stood for educational quality and academic integrity and viewed the mission of the university as turning out liberally educated generalists through a broadly based humanistic curriculum. The university honored him by naming after him the library he worked so hard to expand and by featuring over its doorway the quotation from his favorite author, Isocrates, "Who Knows Only his Own Generation Remains Always a Child." He is best known on the campus today as the author of the "Charge to the Graduates," read at every University of Colorado commencement.

  • Sources:

    Ralph C. Ellsworth, George Norlin as his Friends Knew Him: Some Personal Recollections (Boulder, CO, 1986); The University of Colorado, 1876-1976, ed. F. S. Allen et al. (New York & London, 1976); NatCAB 41:226; Dixon Wecter, "A President in Action," Atlantic Monthly 163 (June, 1939) 785-93; WhAm 2:399.

  • Author: Joy King