A memorial service will be held today (12/06/22) for a retired administrator and the founding department chair of religious studies at the University of Tennessee. The service for Dr. Ralph V. Norman Jr. will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, 413 Cumberland Ave., at 4 p.m.
Dr. Norman passed away at age 89 on October 13, 2022, at home in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
His academic career was capped with a doctorate from Yale University in 1961, but it began right here at Fountain City Elementary School and then Central High School, from which he graduated at the top of his class in 1951. He obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degree from UT. He and wife Cornelia “Connie” Shirley spent a year in Germany where he studied theology as a Fulbright Scholar in Tübingen, Germany. He taught at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, from 1961-66 and then returned to the University of Tennessee to lead the new Department of Religious Studies. In 1971, he joined the university administration, from which he retired in 2003.
He spent the next four years caring for Connie until her passing in February 2007. After Connie’s death, friends in Blowing Rock introduced him to Linda Lillo, who had also recently lost her husband. They were married in 2008 and over the next 14 years divided their time among Key Largo, Blowing Rock and Knoxville.