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J. Norman Parmer

J. Norman Parmer

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OHIO mourns death of J. Norman Parmer, first director of Center for International Studies

Memorial service to be held Feb. 13 in Athens


Ohio University has lost a pioneer of international studies. J. Norman Parmer, inaugural director of the Center for International Studies and principal champion of an international partnership that spanned five decades, passed away Jan. 26, 2016. A memorial service will be held this Saturday, Feb. 13, to honor his life and work.

A respected historian and Malaysia scholar, Parmer served as the first director of the Center for International Studies, which was founded in 1964. 

“He set the framework for the Center for International Studies,” said Felix Gagliano, also a former director of the Center for International Studies. “He was a founding father of our international activities and shaped its earliest days.” 

Parmer was instrumental in creating OHIO’s programs in African Studies, Latin American Studies and Asian Studies.

“He was a principal architect of Ohio University’s relationship with Malaysia,” Gagliano added.

Lorna Jean Edmonds, vice provost for global affairs and international studies at OHIO, said Parmer played a key role in the growth of the University as a whole and in the success of his students.

“Dr. Parmer placed Ohio University in the forefront of international studies,” Edmonds said. “We are saddened by his passing, and our thoughts are with his family members. The profound impact he has had at our University and the global connections he forged during his time at OHIO has provided us with immeasurable value. Our Bobcat footprint reaches far and wide because of his vision and leadership.”

Born in Elkhart, Indiana, in 1925, Parmer served in the U.S. Army as a foot soldier and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II when he was just 19. 

He studied history in college and earned his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in 1949, a master of arts degree from the University of Connecticut in 1951, and a doctorate from Cornell University in 1957. 

His passion for international studies drove him in his career, and led to his appointment as the first Peace Corps Country Director in Malaysia.

“Ohio University is deeply in debt to him,” Gagliano said. “Norm was a personal friend and an important professional mentor to me and many others. I will miss him greatly.”

His late wife, Bessie Norma Parmer, also assisted many people at OHIO as she often hosted faculty and student functions.

Parmer served as the vice president for academic affairs at Trinity University in San Antonio after his time at OHIO.

Upon retirement, he moved back to the Athens area where he stayed in contact with many of his friends and colleagues.

Professor Emeritus Luther Hasely said he enjoyed visiting with Parmer and had the opportunity to take him to a reunion of Army veterans who were in the Battle of the Bulge. The event was memorable, and Hasely said he was thankful for the time he had to visit with Parmer during the trip.

Family and friends of Norm Parmer are invited to take part in a memorial service that will be held in his honor at Christ Lutheran Church, 69 Mill St., in Athens at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13. 

For more information, please read his obituary here

This article was provided by Ohio University’s Office of Global Affairs and International Studies.