Creighton remembers Dr. Neil Norton
Longtime Creighton dental professor and administrator Neil S. Norton, PhD, who served in a variety of leadership capacities at the University, died Sunday, Nov. 27, in Omaha after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
A funeral Mass for Norton will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, at 9 a.m. at St. John’s Church, with a reception to follow in the School of Dentistry Building. The Mass also will be livestreamed on the St. John’s Parish website; click on “St. John’s Live.” Gifts in memory of Norton can be made to the Dr. Neil Norton Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Neil S. Norton, Ph.D. Men’s Soccer Endowment Fund.
Norton joined the Creighton dental faculty in 1996 and most recently served as associate dean for admissions and a professor in the Department of Oral Biology. He taught classes in gross anatomy, head and neck anatomy, human neuroscience and pain control.
“We will certainly miss Dr. Norton’s impressive presence on our campus and his leadership, collegiality, and friendship,” said Creighton University President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD. “The spirit of cura personalis – or care and concern for the entire person – is essential to our mission and is a tenet that animated Dr. Norton’s daily life.”
Beloved and respected by students and peers alike, Norton was the recipient of more than 25 teaching awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for Teaching Achievement, presented by the Creighton Students Union, the University’s highest teaching award; the GlaxoSmithKline Sensodyne Teaching Award, the highest national award of the American Dental Education Association; and the Stephen H. Leeper Award for Teaching Excellence from the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Supreme Chapter. He was also selected for Teacher of the Year recognition by dental school classes on numerous occasions.
“His legacy will be forever etched in our hearts and reflected in our daily work and that of Creighton-educated dentists for decades to come,” said School of Dentistry Dean Jill Wallen, BDS, MS. “We are richer for having known him and blessed by the many ways in which he touched our lives.”
In 2013, alumni from the School of Dentistry Class of 2004 established the Dr. Neil Norton Endowed Scholarship Fund to recognize Dr. Norton’s professional expertise and passion for teaching and to assist qualified dental students, particularly second-year students who have an interest in anatomical science.
A longtime member of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA), he served as the 17th president of the organization from 2015 to 2017 and chaired or served on numerous AACA committees. In 2020, the AACA honored Norton with the R. Benton Adkins Jr. Distinguished Service Award.
Among his significant contributions to the profession, Norton was the author of Netter’s Head & Neck Anatomy for Dentistry, a concise and visual guide to clinically relevant anatomy for dentistry, which has been translated into nine languages and is currently in its third edition.
At Creighton, Norton served as president of the University Faculty from 2006 to 2010 and two terms as secretary of the All-University Faculty Council. He also chaired the University Committee on Rank and Tenure and the Committee on Committees; assisted with the University’s COVID-19 response, as a representative on the Pandemic Response and Oversight Team; and was an honorary member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit honor society.
Named the Jaybacker of the Year in 2019, Norton was an ardent supporter of Creighton Athletics and served as the University’s NCAA Faculty Athletic Representative, working with the BIG EAST Conference, including terms as chair and secretary, and, prior to that, the Missouri Valley Conference. He also was selected by the NCAA to serve on its Postgraduate Scholarship Committee and Honors Committee, and was a member of an advisory search committee that assisted in the hiring of current McCormick Endowed Athletic Director Marcus Blossom in 2021.
“Dr. Norton was much, much more than our Faculty Athletic Representative. He was an incredible mentor, a vocal advocate and a trusted friend,” said Lisa Chipps, BA’97, MS’00, EdD’19, associate athletic director of academics and senior woman administrator for Creighton Athletics. “He will be deeply missed by our student-athletes, coaches and staff.”