In Memorium Norbert Bischof (1933 - 2009)

September
2009
Kate Clark, Past President
Ian Walton, Past President
Mark Wade Lieu, Past President

Norbert Bischof passed away on August 29, 2009. While his students and colleagues in the Peralta Community College District will remember his nearly 50 years of service to their district as a faculty leader and as an outstanding member of the mathematics and philosophy faculty, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges remembers Norbert largely for his vision and engagement, both of which have made the Academic Senate what it is today.

Too often we do not take the time to express our appreciation for those who have come before us, who have mentored and nurtured us; and then, our gratitude never uttered, they are gone. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges is proud that it was able to honor Norbert in recent years. At the Spring 2005 plenary session, the Academic Senate recognized and honored those who had founded our organization and established its mission. Among those singled out that day was the genius and the genesis of the Academic Senate, Norbert Bischof, who was granted the honorary title of Senator Emeritus. At the Fall 2008 plenary session, Norbert was one of the keynote speakers for our celebration of the passage of AB1725, and it was clear that Norbert's work in establishing the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the legislation that today gives all academic senates their authority and responsibility.

More than twenty years before the passage of AB1725, in 1968, Norbert called together local senate presidents at a constitutional convention to establish a statewide representative body that could convey community college faculty interests to the Board of Governors and the Chancellor's Office. In 1969, the group met again to elect its first Executive Committee, and in 1970 the Academic Senate was incorporated as a non-profit organization. Ten years later, as the President of the Academic Senate, Norbert's conversations with the President of the University of California Academic Senate led to their formation of the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS). ICAS continues to meet today to address issues of mutual concern for all three segments of public higher education.

Such clarity of vision and his powers of persuasion and reason were also found in the many senate resolutions and publications Norbert authored and within the committees on which he served. Beyond that, he continued to participate in the plenary sessions of the Academic Senate until his death, joining in the spirited debates on Saturdays and contributing to the discussions at breakout sessions. Norbert's continued involvement in the organization he helped to found kept all of us who succeeded him in the Senate leadership mindful of the importance of the Academic Senate and the role that it must play in a healthy educational system. Beyond the grand vision, Norbert also showed a remarkable individual touch. Many subsequent Presidents remember how he sat down and talked with them, encouraged them to run for leadership positions, and repeatedly checked on their progress. He was a true mentor.

We end this tribute with something far more personal about Norbert-something the lucky ones among us know and experienced: Norbert was a wonderful dancer. The qualities he brought to the dance floor at our plenary sessions that made him such an excellent partner were the very same qualities of leadership that even non-dancers recognized. He was, of course, gentle and gracious, leading briefly only to encourage others to take their own tentative and creative steps, always aware of the broader context in the room and ensuring others' comfort. He was ever-conscious of the rhythms and could adapt if they changed while holding fast to the integrity of dance he had begun. He was innovative but humble, certain and self-confident but eager to have the light shine upon his partners. He was a consummate dancer who loved the dance-in the classroom or the boardroom or on the ballroom floor. Norbert, the beat will go on in your name.

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