Norman Kirshner

Norman Kirshner 9/21/1923-6-27/2010

Family: Wife was Annette, they had 4 daughters-- twin daughters: Naomi and Susan, and Amy who was born 9 years later. A fourth daughter died in a car accident at a young age.

Norm grew up in an orthodox home outside of Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania. His grandfather owned a kosher butcher shop where the grandfather and Norm's father would do their own butchering. They would sell the "trafe" parts of the meat to the gentile community in the front of the store and the kosher shop was kept in the back.

Norm had wanted to go on to medical school, but his higher education plans were changed twice. His college years were interrupted by World War II. Then after returning from the military, Norman's options for medical school were limited because of the quota system in place for Jewish applicants. Unable to become a physician, he earned a Ph.D. in Pharmacology.In the long haul, his change in plans worked out well. Who knows how he would have done as a medical practitioner, but he certainly had a successful career as a pharmacologist. Not only did he become a notable researcher and department chair, but he also found his wife, Annette, through his career path.

Norm moved south to Durham to work at Duke as a junior faculty member. He was the only single Jewish male in the department. Annette was a single biochemistry graduate student. They gravitated toward each other and eventually got married.

According to Annette, Norm was reserved and quiet, always in control of his emotions. But this did not stop him from doing much good in his work and later in retirement. He just did his "good" quietly. Annette learned about one example of this quiet goodness, after Norm had passed away, A colleague of Norm's told Annette of a time when Norm was preparing to submit some research for publication. Norm held up his submission until this particular colleague his completed his own manuscript which was in an area closely allied with Norm's research. Rather than risk the possibility of out scooping the colleague's work, Norm decided they would submit both manuscripts together as a package deal. To accept one meant accepting the other. It turned out that Norm, earlier in his career, had lost out in a similar situation and he was not going to do the same to another colleague.

Norm eventually was made chair of the Pharmacology Department even though he was "only" a Ph.D. It was a further testimony to his competence and professional stature that he rose to a position usually reserved for MDs. As Annette explained, this was an example of a nice guy that does finish first.

After he retired at the age of 70, he became involved in synagogue functions where he was on the finance committee and was financial treasurer for many, many years. People who worked with him remembered his quietness, but also remembered his steadiness and persistence. He was also involved with Duke Retirees Association and would help the elderly with their computers.