Former KSU employee dies snorkeling

Ryan Loew

Horticulturist Michael Norman dies in Bahamas while on rec center trip

Retired Kent State horticulturist Michael Norman died Wednesday while snorkeling off the coast of the Bahamas, as part of the “Bahamas Sailing and Snorkeling” trip sponsored by the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Officials in Nassau, Bahamas, are conducting an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, and the body will likely remain there until results are final.

Norman, a 52-year-old Stow resident, was snorkeling near Gun Island, according to information released by university spokesperson Scott Rainone.

Norman had been on five such recreation center trips before. He had to be pulled back onto the boat while snorkeling, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

The annual spring break trip to the Bahamas was cut short by Norman’s death, the Beacon Journal stated, and the remaining eight participants and two group leaders returned to Ohio ahead of schedule.

Norman retired in November 2002 after 24 years with Kent State’s Campus Environment and Operations, and he was granted University Horticulturist Emeritus status by the Kent State Board of Trustees that same month.

“He designed almost every garden and flower bed on this campus,” said Mike Deleone, an equipment operator for Campus Environment and Operations who worked with Norman. “Every time I go by something (on campus), I think ‘Mike Norman did that.’ He was a really knowledgeable guy. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.”

Norman designed and worked on the gardens located in the “Behind the Brain”plaza outside Merrill Hall, the Murin Gardens on the north side of the library and Cartwright Anniversary Gardens outside the rec center.

Deleone, who Norman hired in 1981, said he was a well-liked and hardworking employee who continued working for Kent State after retirement — without pay.

“It was like a big park to him,” Deleone said. “Certain times, Kent State didn’t have people to pull weeds, so he would go and do it. He would just come and pull weeds. That’s how dedicated he was.”

Norman also received a Division of Business and Finance Quality Service award for creativity in 1994.

“As a gifted and creative horticulturist and manager of our grounds crew, Mike played a key role in making the Kent campus a showplace of magnificent plants, trees and flowers,” President Carol Cartwright said in a press release. “His work and his generous spirit have left an indelible mark on the university and on all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

Contact administration reporter Ryan Loew at [email protected].