Across Cultures: Meet College President Dr. Daniel Norton
STORY BY LAUREL SHAPER WALTERS (US’84)
PHOTOS BY ERIC LINES (US’04, C’08)
Throughout his three-decade career, Dr. Daniel Norton estimates he has taught, recruited, or advised students from at least 130 countries. His deep experience in higher education has taken him—and the students he has served—around the world.
“I HAVE SERVED AS A SENIOR ADMINISTRATOR AT TWO PRIVATE LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES AND TWO LARGE PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES OVER THE LAST TWO DECADES,” Dr. Norton says, “so I’ve been able to learn and apply a wide range of strategies to strengthen, differentiate, and diversify institutions. I have also gained insights by working closely with partner universities around the globe and examined how these institutions utilized different strategies, often informed by their distinct cultural and historical contexts.” Before moving into senior administration positions, Dr. Norton served as a faculty member at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, teaching courses in composition and public speaking. He then directed international programs at Muskingum University and at Stephen F. Austin State University, implemented and directed Goucher College’s universal study abroad requirement, and oversaw the comprehensive Center for International Education at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Championing International Education
Everywhere he’s been, Dr. Norton has promoted international education—supporting the progress of international students and strengthening infrastructure for faculty and students to experience successful, transformative study abroad programs. “Building and strengthening bridges across cultures is critical to establishing a global institution,” he says.
The difference at Principia College, he notes, is that he now gets the benefit of building on the firm foundation of Christian Science. “Christian Science is a global religion, and it’s inspiring that our enrollment at Principia College reflects this fact. We have the highest percentage of international students at any college or university in the country today.”
Christian Science Perspective
As a class-taught Christian Scientist who came into Christian Science in his early 20s after a great deal of exploration and searching, Dr. Norton knows what it means to be a spiritual seeker. “Christian Science is for me a way of perceiving the world that is often distinct from or in direct conflict with what the material senses present. Several of my healings have come from such a change in perspective. In a similar way, higher education is all about changing your perspective through learning new ideas and new ways of looking at things.”
He is excited to lead an institution of higher education that is rooted and grounded in the teachings of Christian Science. “We have an incredible resource in Christian Science,” he says. “That foundation is what will carry Principia College through any challenge. Serving the Cause of Christian Science is the purpose and heart of Principia, and that remains unchanged.”
As Principia explores innovative, relevant, and contemporary ways to serve the Cause of Christian Science, Dr. Norton brings global expertise, a deep spiritual perspective, and experience growing enrollments on multiple campuses through recruiting students from around the world.
“Our world needs more of what Principia—and Principians—have to offer.”
Envisioning the Future
With experience comes clarity. This is an especially challenging time to be leading a small, rural, faith-based liberal arts college. Colleges and universities across the U.S. are facing daunting headwinds on many fronts. The number of domestic students enrolling in colleges and universities is shrinking. At the same time, tuition revenues are eroding, especially for private colleges. “We must do a better job of communicating the incredible value of the whole-person education provided by small, residential liberal arts colleges like Principia,” he notes.
Dr. Norton is familiar with this difficult landscape, yet it is Principia’s uniqueness that makes him optimistic about the College’s bright future. “As I began thinking about my vision for Principia College as a global institution, I started with the idea of envisioning Principia College in alignment with the attributes of universal love and moral character, which is essentially universal love in action” he says. The idea of building a global college clearly aligns with universal love.”
A Principia Parent First
“I’m impressed with what Principia does and am very optimistic about its future as an influential global institution. As the parent of a Principia School and College graduate, I have firsthand knowledge of the transformative power of a Principia education.” His daughter, Caitlin (Norton) Howe (US’06, C’10), and son-in-law, Colby Howe (C’10), are both Principia graduates.
Dr. Norton’s wife, Carolyn McIntyre Norton, a lifelong Christian Scientist, is a professional artist who has taught a wide array of visual arts courses at several universities over the past 20 years. She holds an MFA in studio art from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas and a BFA in communication arts from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her photography, printmaking, and handmade artist’s books have been shown in group and solo shows, both nationally and internationally.
Carolyn is looking forward to exploring the natural areas on the College’s 2,600-acre campus and says, “My artwork focuses on examining grasslands and waterscapes, so being able to work near the Mississippi River’s confluences with the Missouri and Illinois Rivers in the Prairie State is just perfect. I’m excited to meet everyone—don’t be surprised if you see me with art supplies in hand discovering all that this beautiful campus has to offer.”
Dr. Norton has a deep and abiding love of music and has played guitar for many years, rotating between his classical, acoustic, and electric guitars. His son, Brian, is executive director of the Grammy-award winning Houston Chamber Choir and his daughter-in-law, Melanie, is an acclaimed singer and soloist with several choral groups. His son, Grant, is also a musician and is currently playing in a band in the Baltimore area.
Dr. Norton is just settling into his role but has a few early priorities. Revising the College’s approach to academic scholarships is foremost on that list. These scholarships are being enhanced to attract more high-achieving, right-fit students who can most benefit from and contribute to Principia College.
The College’s admissions counselors are scheduling visits to high schools in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago. “Principia College has a great deal to offer students,” Dr. Norton says. “We will be getting the word out. Our world needs more of what Principia—and Principians—have to offer.”
Developing more January and summer-term study abroad programs as well as building domestic study-away programs within the U.S. are also potential future initiatives. “Having such a high percentage of international students on campus comes with the responsibility to better support and nurture our global student population,” Dr. Norton says, “and finding a healthier balance of on-campus work requirements and academic study for international students is another priority of mine.”
While his robust vision for the College includes exploring innovative ideas and promising future possibilities, Dr. Norton is humbled and grateful to be building on 125 years of progress. The small but powerful college on the bluffs has exceptionally deep reserves of excellence: an internationally competitive mediation team, a top-ranked solar car team, a national champion rugby club, and the nation’s oldest student-run public affairs conference.
“In my first message to the community,” he recalls, “I shared this quote from Mary Baker Eddy: ‘We live in an age of Love’s divine adventure to be All-in-all” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 158). Leading Principia College is an adventure led by divine Love, and I’m excited to be on this divine adventure with all of you!”