Dr. Robert Lawrence Campbell, 57, co-founder and director of the Norbel School on Park Heights Avenue, died of cancer at his Towson home Monday.
Norbel is a combination of the names of the school's founders, Dr. Campbell and his wife, Dr. Norma Hauserman Campbell, who established the school in 1980 for students who require a personalized educational environment. The school, at the Temple Oheb Shalom, started with seven students and how has 60.
"The philosophy of the school emphasizes individualized instruction for the basic 3 Rs along with an equally important fourth R, rational living skills," said Dr. Hauserman-Campbell.
Added Marge Gold, program director for 13 years: "He encouraged everybody to take an active part in the planning of the program. He had a great sense of investment in his students and always said it was better to err on the side of commission rather than omission."
"Norbel is a unique educational institution," said Dr. Howard Klein, a Pikesville pediatrician and friend of Dr. Campbell's. "This school was the baby of the Campbells. They took an idea and ran with it, and they worked very hard to put it together. He was everything you want in a good educator. As a person, he was a gentle giant with a firm handshake."
He was born in Turley, Okla., and attended schools there. As a young man, he played professional baseball with the Georgia Crackers, a Triple A team that today is part of the Atlanta Braves organization. He was a stock-car driver in Tulsa, worked on an offshore oil drilling rig and aspired to be a radio sports announcer. He earned his bachelor's degree at Emory University in 1962 and in 1966 received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Alabama.
He began his teaching and consulting career at the University of Alabama and the Tennessee Valley Rehabilitation Center. He also taught for several years at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale, and in 1971 was appointed associate professor. He became interested in behavioral development when he was research director of the Rehabilitation Institute there.
In 1973, he came to Maryland after being appointed by Bertram W. Pepper, commissioner of the Maryland Mental Health Administration, to the position of coordinator of psychological services and and research.
He was fond of jazz and stock-car races and was a member of the Country Club of Maryland. Last month he hosted the first annual "Fore Norbel" golf outing as a way of establishing the Norbel scholarship fund.
A memorial tribute is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today at the Norbel School Auditorium of Temple Oheb Shalom.
In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1979, survivors include a daughter, Tricia Rean Shoults of Birmingham, Ala.; four stepsons, John Hauserman of Baltimore, William Hauserman of Hanau, Germany, Anthony Hauserman of San Diego and Jesse Hauserman of Greenbelt; a stepdaughter, Heidi Cook of Baltimore; two brothers, David Campbell of San Francisco and Harold Campbell of San Diego; and his parents, Herbert and Ruth Campbell of Austin, Texas.
The family suggested memorial contributions to the Robert L. Campbell Memorial Fund, c/o Norbel School, 7310 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore 21208.