Colleagues and friends of Kenneth T. Norris Jr. vow that the cancer center and hospital that bears his name will carry on the groundbreaking work that made him so proud.
“Mr. Norris used to say he wouldn’t rest until cancer is a disease of the past, and we will continue in that spirit,” said Peter A. Jones, director of the USC/Kenneth T. Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.
A special memorial tribute is being planned for Norris, who died Sept. 21 in a boating accident on Lake Arrowhead. He was 66.
Norris made possible the Norris Cancer Center with a $5 million contribution from the Norris Foundation. The center opened in April 1983 as the only hospital in Southern California created exclusively for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. He contributed another $4.5 million for the center’s recent expansion.
“In addition to his generosity, Mr. Norris gave us his name,” said G. Peter Shostak, hospital administrator of the center. “The fact that he put his name on our institution delivered a very strong message: Ken never failed to offer his personal support for what we were doing, be it in the area of research, education or patient care.”
Norris had a long association with USC. A trustee from 1980 to 1985, Norris continued the tradition of philanthropy started by his parents, Eileen and Kenneth True Norris, who created the Norris Medical Library at the Health Sciences Campus and the Eileen L. Norris Cinema Theatre and the Norris Dental Center at the University Park Campus. In addition to funding the cancer center, Norris Jr. underwrote renovation of Bovard Auditorium.
“Mr. Norris will be remembered both for his leadership as a longtime trustee and for his advancement of the educational and research mission of the university,” said President Steven B. Sample. “We will miss him.”
Norris was a member of the board of the cancer center, but his participation went beyond financial support, said Jones. “His foresight, generosity and direct involvement was essential not only to the physical structure but also to the development of the research and clinical programs,” he said.
Norris took a personal interest in the center and in USC, said Ronald R. Barnes, executive director of the Norris Foundation.
“He was most proud of what he had done for the USC/Kenneth T. Norris Com-prehensive Cancer Center and Hospital,” Barnes said. “He was very close to USC and had recently spoken with Dr. Sample and expressed pride in everything the hospital had achieved.”
Norris received a B.S. in industrial management from USC in 1953. As an undergraduate, he was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma national scholastic honorary fraternity, Blue Key national men’s honorary leadership fraternity and Skull & Dagger fraternity. Norris earned two varsity letters in crew and was team captain in his senior year.
From 1954 to 1956, Norris served with the 12th Air Force in Germany as a fighter-interceptor-controller.
At 14, he first took a summer job with Norris Industries – the company his father had founded in 1930 – and except for his undergraduate studies and military service, worked at Norris Industries until the firm was sold in 1981. He became president of the company in 1965, chief executive officer in 1969 and chairman of the board in 1972.
The university and the community have honored Norris repeatedly for his civic involvement. From USC, he received the Asa V. Call Achievement Award, the School of Business Outstanding Achievement Alumnus Award, and the School of Medicine Distinguished Service Award.
Norris is survived by his wife, Harlyne Norris; his five children, Bradley Norris, Kimberley Presley, Dale Norris, James Martin, and Lisa Hansen; and eight grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at Forest Lawn in Glendale on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 1:30 p.m. A memorial service follows. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, cotributions be made to the USC/Kenneth T. Norris Jr. Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.
More stories about: Obituaries