A Career to Remember Retired Principal Dave Norton '71 reflects on a 44-year career at The Mount.

“And, how would you feel about moderating school dances?” a familiar voice asked Dave Norton ’71 toward the end of his first job interview in 1975. Sitting across the table from Mr. Bernd McDivitt, Dave was instantly taken back to his senior English class and the rich, resonant voice that filled the room with the words of literary legends. Four years later, Dave, now a recent graduate from Towson University, had returned to Mount Saint Joseph for a meeting that would make a greater impact on his life than he could have possibly predicted.

He looked up at his high school English teacher, smiled and shrugged. “Sure, I can do that,” he responded. And with that, Dave was hired as a new math teacher at his alma mater. What came next was a successful and storied career spanning 44 years and positions held in every facet of school life.

Not too long after returning to The Mount, Dave, who had experience as a lifeguard and water safety certifications, was asked by Brother Corby Duffy, C.F.X. to work at Camp Saint Joseph. By the next year, Dave was in charge.

CAMP SAINT JOSEPH | Top left photo: Dave Norton ’71 with campers and fellow camp counselors Teddy Rukowicz ’63 and Pat Clatchey ’82 | Top right photo: Dave’s son, Joe Norton ’05, began attending Camp Saint Joseph when he was three years old! | Middle left photo: (From left) Dave Norton ’71, Phyllis Plevyak, Teddy Rukowicz ’63, and Tony Brockmeyer | Bottom right photo: (From left) John Plevyak, Teddy Rukowicz ’63, and Dave Norton ’71 at Camp Saint Joseph’s 50th reunion

“I loved it; It wasn’t work,” he says. “My philosophy in life stems from family—that’s what I believe in—no matter what I do, it’s taking a group of people working together toward a common goal, getting along together and treating each other with respect. We became a family. In fact, my son, Joe ’05, started going to the camp when he was three years old. My daughter worked there and helped in the office. Joe worked as a junior counselor. That’s just what we did in the summer.”

My philosophy in life stems from family—that’s what I believe in—no matter what I do, it’s taking a group of people working together toward a common goal, getting along together and treating each other with respect.

One summer, registration got up to a whopping 180 campers aged 5-12 years old. “It was organized chaos,” Dave recalls, smiling. “So, we scaled back. The camp was very successful; even to this day you hear alumni telling stories about camp.” In each of those stories, former campers, even those who attended Mount Saint Joseph for high school, would affectionally refer to the camp’s director as “Mr. Dave.”

To the rest of the school, though, he was Mr. Norton, and as the years passed, new titles were continually tacked to the end of his nameplate—teacher, coach, club moderator, administrator, principal. Dave was the first lay teacher to take over the disciplinarian role at The Mount. “The dean of students was probably my favorite position I’ve ever had,” he admits. “It was the hardest, but it was the most rewarding because I was able to help those who really needed the help.”

Each position Dave took on required him to lean more heavily on aspects of his character depending on the demands of the job. “As the disciplinarian, I had to be tough,” he explains. “As an assistant principal, I had to be super organized. As principal—well, there is a certain grace that has to go with that position. That’s when you really need God. So many times, when you’re in that office, the holy spirit is there. I can’t explain it; I don’t know exactly how it happens. But it happens, and it wows you.”

Dave’s days as principal were filled with sports games, school plays, alumni events, assemblies, and retreats. “I tried to go to everything just to be a presence, just to support the kids, and they appreciated it. That’s what a principal should do. The students have to know that you love them and care about them,” he says.

Director of Studies Greg McDivitt (left) and Director of Staff Formation Rob Peace (right) pose with Dave before an all-school Mass.

It is impossible to summarize the accomplishments of Dave’s career as a school administrator into just a few paragraphs. But one of his most notable achievements has surely been the implementation of the DePaul Program. Dave spearheaded the effort to create a program for students with learning differences. What started in 2001 with five students, grew to be capped at 134 students when Dave retired last year. “The whole point is they are smart kids, they just learn differently. We wanted to find a bridge that could help them be successful and work to their potential,” he says.

His work, in coordination with then-Director of Special Programs Kate Chapman, continues to impact generations of students who, without the support they received in DePaul, might have fallen through the cracks of general education. “When you continue to hear from parents and students what a difference you made for them; when you get invited to their weddings because you changed their life; when you get notes out of the blue from former students—that means a lot to me,” he shares.

Dave didn’t only make an impact on students during school hours; some of his greatest lessons were taught out on the baseball field. He served as JV head coach for seven seasons, from 1976 to 1982, and varsity head coach for 31 seasons, from 1983 to 2013. Under his leadership, the Gaels earned a spot in the conference playoffs for 25 consecutive years. They won two MSA conference championships, one MIAA conference championship, and two private school state championships. Among many other accolades and achievements, Dave was inducted into Mount Saint Joseph’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018.

Dave and former player Gavin Floyd '01, who went on to be a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and four other teams.

Dave celebrates with his team after winning the 2004 MIAA Championship.

Dave and former player Mark Teixeira '98, who played first baseman for the New York Yankees and three other Major League Baseball teams.

“Baseball is like life,” Dave says. “You’re going to have your ups and downs; you’re going to have challenges. When you face a challenge, what are you going to do? Give up? No. Change it. Find a way to be successful. Support one another; you have to be a team and believe in each other. That’s what you get out of baseball—it’s life experiences.”

From motivational game day speeches to lectures to fatherly chats with students in need of some guidance, Dave has spent his career advising, counseling, and encouraging Mount students as they have grown into the men God intends them to be. If he could offer current Mount students some final pieces of advice, they would be this:

"God has to be the center of your lives, in everything you do."

"Challenge yourselves to be the best that you can be. But also enjoy what you’re doing; get involved in things; look to help other people. That brings so much happiness to you. Always strive for that happiness."

"Pray, and pray, and pray. Don’t be afraid to pray. Make it part of your everyday life. Start your day with a prayer; end your day with a prayer. Ask for God’s help."

"Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone."

"If you strive to be a good, honest, loving person, you’ll make it. Every day is not perfect, but you keep trying. New day, new start."

Retirement won’t keep Dave from Mount Saint Joseph. Whether it’s on the baseball field or in the stands, at school plays or alumni events, Dave will continue to support the Gaels and the school that has been his home for the past 44 years. “The Mount is such a part of me,” he admits tenderly. And, Dave will forever be part of the Mount family.