Obituary: Norman Patrick Hines

Noted sculptor, dedicated educator

Artist, professor and longtime Claremont resident Norm Hines died at home on Sunday, May 1, 2016 after a long illness. He was 77.

Born in New York City on December 27, 1938, Norm attended The Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut, distinguishing himself as an athlete in nearly every sport offered and particularly crew, rowing as stroke in the 1956 Olympic trials. While a student, he was named to the Athletic Hall of Fame and, many years later, to the Gunnery’s Arts and Letters Hall of Fame, the first alumnus to enjoy both honors.

Mr. Hines entered Pomona College in 1957, finishing in three and a half years and graduating in 1961. An English major, he had already been accepted to graduate school in English when he enrolled in a ceramics class taught by Paul Soldner at Scripps College. The experience changed his life, launching a lifelong career in the arts. While working toward an MFA from the Claremont Graduate School, now Claremont Graduate University, he served both as assistant instructor in ceramics there and as aquatics instructor at Pomona, where he had taught swimming for years.

There followed two years as director of the Webb School Camp on San Juan Island, Washington and four at the Catalina Island School for Boys, Avalon, where he was dean of boys, head of the art department and athletic director. During the summers, he worked as a scuba instructor and established himself as a potter. In 1968, he moved with his wife Anne Gill (Pomona ’61) and three daughters to Dunn School, Los Olivos, where he served as assistant headmaster and athletic director. A year later, E. Wilson Lyon, president of Pomona College, invited him to return as assistant dean of admissions, a position he held from 1969 to 1973.

Almost immediately, the college asked him to teach a ceramics class, which he did while continuing to be a full-time administrator. With no available facilities or equipment on campus, Norm borrowed wheels, built kilns and, until 1973, when ceramics was added to the curriculum, held class outside, in a service alley. In the early 1980s, the ceramics program now well established, he took over sculpture as well and, for many years, taught a full curriculum in both media; he also served twice as department chair, the first studio faculty member to be so appointed. A superb teacher and mentor, he touched the lives of generations of students, many of whom remained close to him throughout his life.

Pomona College alumnus Richard Garcia reflected on Mr. Hines’ impact in a recent online tribute:

“Footsteps upon the dusty floor echo a new silence; a hammer and chisel lay lie quiet upon the bench, no longer partners in their labor; the potter’s wheel stands alone to the side with no feet to pace it; the forge remains cold, no fire to stoke and no hot steel to pound,” he wrote. “I imagine the way Norm has left his studio. I remember the statement scrawled high on the wall of the Pomona College potting studio, ‘Just because your mom likes it doesn’t make it good!’

 “I don’t know if this can be attributed to Norm but it exemplifies his conviction,” Mr. Garcia continued. “He was hard on me, with frank and pointed words. He challenged me. This is the lesson I still carry: ‘Respect the process.’”

Mr. Hines always pursued his own work—first ceramics, then sculpture—while teaching. He was a prolific artist in a wide variety of media, and his ceramics, marble and granite carvings, kinetic metal sculptures, bronze platters, bowls and life-cast fruits and vegetables—are represented in numerous private collections. Examples of his large-scale sculpture can be seen on the Pomona College campus, including the striking, twin-spired, stainless steel work titled “In the Spirit of Excellence”; at Chapman University, where he designed a granite fountain; and in the cities of Ontario, San Jose, Palm Desert and Nelson, New Zealand.

In 1984, Mr. Hines was commissioned to create a signature work for a business park in Arlington, Texas. The result, Caelum Moor, a five-acre, park-like environment containing five sets of granite megaliths, became a well known and much admired destination, serving for many years as the site of the annual Highland Games as well as concerts and private events. In recent years, the stones were moved to a site in the city’s entertainment district, adjacent to the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys stadiums. 

From the early 1990s and particularly after retiring, Norm and his wife Marjorie (“Cricket”) Harth Hines, former director of the Pomona College Museum of Art and professor of art history, divided their time between Claremont; Ranchita, California in the Anza Borrego Desert; and Taveuni, Fiji Islands, where they had bought land. For 23 years, the Fiji property allowed Norm to engage in everything he did best and loved most—building, learning the ways of a culture new to him, teaching, spending time on the water—diving, kayaking and fishing—all the while creating an entirely new body of work that included basalt boulders embedded at tide line, and wood and bone carvings.

As Mr. Hines’ health declined and he was no longer able to handle heavy tools and materials, he turned to making culinary knives, a new skill, self-taught, that he could do seated. In a very short period of time, he produced hundreds of increasingly refined knives that are now to be found in a number of Claremont homes. Along with an extraordinary body of work, Mr. Hines’ legacy is celebrated in the state-of-the-art Norm Hines Sculpture Studio at Pomona College.,

Norm leaves his wife Marjorie; daughters Elizabeth Anne Hines Bescoby of Mt. Baldy and Katherine Mary Hines (Bryce Engstrom) of Arroyo Grande; three grandchildren, Kyle James Hines Bescoby (Grace), Matthew Cole Hines Bescoby (Kimberly) and Claire Noel Hines Bescoby; one great-grandchild, Zaina Alice Bescoby; and a stepson, Jason Alexander Swain.

His youngest daughter, Sarah Beth Hines, died in a bicycle accident in 2005. Along with extended family members, Norm also leaves legions of friends, many of them former students, all ever-grateful for his presence in their lives.

A memorial is scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, July 9 on the Pomona College campus. Further details will be announced in due course.

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