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Trinity community remembers former President H. Wilbert Norton

Trinity CommunicationsFebruary 21, 2017

Hugo Wilbert “Will” Norton, president of Trinity from 1957-1964, died Feb. 20 at his home in Tahlequah, Okla. at the age of 102.

Trinity dedicated the Norton Welcome Center in his honor just days from his 100th birthday in 2015. Norton took part in the ceremony.

Norton served as professor of missions, dean of education, and president of Trinity College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School from 1950-1964. During his tenure, the institution moved to its current location, with many additions to the faculty and strong enrollment growth. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School first assumed that name under Norton’s administration.

“Dr. Norton’s widespread impact as church and denominational leader, educator, and missionary has left an amazing legacy,” President David S. Dockery said. “We offer thanks to God for the life and influence of President Norton.”

Norton came to Trinity with strong credentials as a leader in the field of missions and as a theological educator.

With language skills in Swedish, Lingala, and Mbaka and a reading knowledge of Norwegian and Danish, Norton proved to be a skilled, dedicated missionary. He and his wife Colene served as missionaries in the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1940-1949. Deeply dedicated to theological education in the Third World, he founded the missions programs at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Wheaton. He later founded a Bible institute in the DRC and a seminary in Nigeria.

Norton also was mission-minded at home. During a furlough, he helped plan the first InterVarsity Missions conference in Toronto. That gathering later became the Urbana Missions Conference, one of the largest annual gatherings of its kind.

In addition to his undergraduate work at Wheaton, Norton earned a Doctor of Theology degree in 1955 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, studying church history under Carl F.H. Henry. He took post-doctoral work at the University of Chicago, where he studied with R. Pierce Beaver and Paul Tillich. Norton received honorary doctorates from Jos Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1995 and Columbia International University in 2012.

Survivors include three sons: Will, Jr. (Susan), Peter (Jean) and Seth (Linda). Eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren also survive him. His wife Colene passed away Aug. 10, 2016 at the age of 101.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Norton Scholarship Fund at Trinity International University.

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