Professor Emeritus Ted Norton

Professor Emeritus Ted Norton

Please join the university community in celebrating the life and contributions of the late Professor Emeritus of Political Science Ted Norton at a campus service 3 p.m. March 20 in the Spartan Memorial Chapel. Norton, who passed away Feb. 7 at age 90, was by most accounts the most influential faculty member in San Jose State’s modern history, guiding the Academic Senate in a variety of capacities throughout his 53 years at the university.

A native of Alameda, Calif., Norton served in World War II, earning a Purple Heart in the European Theater. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1947 and a law degree in 1949 from Stanford University. He also earned master’s and doctoral degrees in political science, in 1955 and 1960, respectively, from the University of Chicago. He began teaching at SJSU in 1960, specializing in constitutional law, inspiring many students to pursue legal careers.

Academic Senate

Within a few years of his arrival on campus, Norton became a very active member of the Academic Senate, the principal agency for the formulation of university policy. He twice served as chair, drafted more policies and resolutions than any other individual, and volunteered as the senate’s unofficial parliamentarian. After retiring, he continued to serve as an honorary senator and, in 1992, wrote a comprehensive history of the senate.

Professor of Political Science Kenneth Peter aptly sums up his colleague and friend’s career: “Professor Norton helped to bring SJSU through the turbulent 1960s, shaping many of the policies that transformed SJSU from a state college into a modern university. He was a rigorous constitutional law professor with a capacious memory, a wry sense of humor and a modest and soft-spoken demeanor. He will be sorely missed in numerous quarters on campus.”


In addition to his many years of service to SJSU, Norton used his modest professor’s salary to create multiple endowments, which are particularly powerful because they deliver a dependable, perpetual source of funding.

In 1995, Norton made a small gift establishing the SJSU Political Science Faculty Endowment, with the hope his contribution would inspire more gifts from faculty members, alumni and friends of the department. Today, thanks to such gifts, income from $45,000 endowment provides grants to political science faculty for research, scholarship and professional development.

In 2004, Norton made a gift of $50,000 to endow the T.M. Norton Campus Enhancement Fund. To ensure the fund would grow, he asked that all income from the endowment be added to its principal until 10 years after his death. The fund will be used to support activities beyond what the state supports, including enhancing the intellectual and aesthetic qualities of SJSU and its campus, such as scholarly conferences, lectures, concerts, authors- and artists-in-residence and scholarly journals.

On Giving

In SJSU’s 2006-2007 Donor Endowment Report, Dr. Norton shared his views on giving: “Faculty usually don’t make enough money to give much away, but they realize that the university is grateful for everything it gets. Even though my contribution is not very big, I believe that something is better than nothing. I asked myself where better to give my money than the place I spent 35 years and have such fond memories of?”

In lieu of flowers, his family asks remembrances be made to the “SJSU Political Science Faculty Endowment” or the “SJSU T.M. Norton Campus Enhancement Fund.” Please send checks payable to the Tower Foundation of SJSU, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0183, or make a gift online at

Norton is survived by his niece, Anne Norton Ayer, two nephews, Robert Rule and Steven Rule, two grandnephews, two grandnieces, a great-grandniece and several cousins. The family has planned a memorial service at 1 p.m. March 23 in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Saratoga, with a brief reception to follow.