A dedicated life: Remembering Norman R. Zehr (1930-2018)
Many people have a strong affinity for their alma mater, but there are few who dedicate their time and service to the extent that Norman “Norm” Zehr ’52, MS ’56 did to Mines.
Norm’s love for Mines first developed as an undergraduate as he pursued a professional degree in mining engineering nearly 70 years ago. He was an involved member of campus, becoming a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity as well as the National Society of Scabbard and Blade and the National Society of Pershing Rifles, honor societies for ROTC candidates.
Norm graduated as a distinguished military graduate in 1952. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers and became an Army aviator in 1954. Showing the same dedication he did at Mines, Norm excelled in the military, serving in the 40th Infantry Division and the Korean Military Advisory Group in the Korean War. He was recognized for his military achievements with numerous honors, including the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and a United Nations Service Medal.
Norm obtained his commercial pilot license after leaving the military but couldn’t be kept from Mines for long. He returned to campus to earn a master’s degree in mining engineering in 1956.
In the following 28 years, Norm worked for Ingersoll Rand, first as a sales engineer, before being promoted to several executive positions, including vice president of Ingersoll Rand Company and president of Ingersoll Rand International. In his professional life, Norm was recognized with many accolades, including Mines’ Distinguished Service Medal in 1977 and the Legion of Honor award from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration in 2001, both honors recognizing his career achievements.
When Norm left Ingersoll Rand in 1983, Mines called him home. He returned to his alma mater in 1984 as the executive director of the alumni association. Norm held the position for 11 years, encouraging alumni to maintain their affinity for the university and ensuring the institution’s success. During his tenure, he was an instrumental part of the editorial committee that produced Rocky Mountains to the World, a book published in 2004 by Wilton Eckley that details the university’s rich history, a subject Norm felt passionate about. He was also an honorary member of Blue Key and was made an honorary Mines ROTC colonel in 1987 before being inducted into Mines’ ROTC Hall of Fame in 2017.
Norm retired from the alumni association in 1995, but continued to support Mines and its alumni. He was a founder and regular attendee of the alumni association’s Lunch Bunch group where alumni in the Golden area gather on the second Thursday every month to catch up and enjoy the company of fellow Orediggers—a gathering that continues to this day.
Norm is survived by his wife, Jan; daughters, Jeannette (husband Philip) and Leslie; grandchildren, Austin, Lina and Abdallah; great-grandchildren, Acia and Mourad; and brother, Dick.