Norma Fields Furst, 64, educator


Norma Fields Furst, president since 1992 of the Baltimore Hebrew University, died yesterday of lung cancer at her home in Wynnewood, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb. She was 64.

Dr. Furst commuted from her home to the Northwest Baltimore school, which offers bachelor's and master's degrees and doctorates in Jewish studies.

From 1983 to 1992, she was president of Harcum Junior College, a two-year independent institution in Bryn Mawr, Pa., where she began her college teaching career in 1962.

She joined the faculty of the College of Education of Temple University in Philadelphia in 1963 and became a full professor before becoming the university's dean of student affairs from 1974 to 1983.

Dr. Robert O. Freedman, acting president and vice president for academic affairs of the Hebrew University and dean of its Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone School of Graduate Studies, described Dr. Furst as "an outstanding leader and a wonderful human being."

Beverly Penn, who chairs the school's board of trustees, said yesterday that "she was only with us for a short time, but she had a major impact upon Baltimore Hebrew University. She served as our guiding light as we moved toward the 21st century. To know her was to love her."

George B. Hess Jr., treasurer of the board, described her as a leader, a "great friend" and an educator who understood the demands placed on the university. "She has left the institution strong," he said.

The school was founded in 1919 as the Baltimore Hebrew College and Teacher Training School. It became an agency of the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore in 1930 and was designated a university in 1987.

Dr. Furst was an editor and reviewer for professional education journals, and an author of more than 30 published professional works. She was a member of several national professional groups in education and psychology.

She also held offices in or was a board member of other organizations, including the American Association of Junior, Technical and Community Colleges; the American Association of University Women; the Council of Jewish Federations; Higher Education Referral Services; the International B'nai B'rith/Hillel Commission; the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Committee; Jewish Education Services of North America; the Jewish Publication Society; and the national organizations of independent colleges and junior colleges and of state universities and land grant colleges.

In the Philadelphia area, she had served on the board of Gratz College. She was active in many civic and community institutions, including the Chapel of the Four Chaplains and the Society Hill Synagogue and its Central City Religious School.

The former Norma Fields was a New York City native and graduated with honors from Brooklyn College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She studied educational psychology at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and earned her master's degree and doctorate at Temple University.

Before beginning her college teaching career, she taught high school classes in Bridgeport, and worked for the Pakistani mission to the United Nations and as a research librarian at the New York Public Library.

Services were to be held at 1 p.m. today at the Joseph Levine & Son Funeral Home in Philadelphia.

Survivors include her husband, Lawrence Furst, professor emeritus of psychology at Temple; a son, Merrick Furst, a professor of computer science at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh; a daughter, Dr. Laura Jacobs of Merion, Pa.; her mother, Anne Platzer of Philadelphia; and four grandchildren.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad