Dr. Norris G Haring: 1923-2019

Jul 31, 2019

Dr. Norris G Haring, University of Washington Professor Emeritus, the only child of Elsie May Craig and Grover Wm Haring, died peacefully on June 27, 2019 after a long and rich life. Born on July 25, 1923, on the family farm in Kearney, NE, Dr. Haring was a self-made man. He left home at 15 and made his way to Los Angeles, where he riveted airplanes until he was sent to Europe during WWII. He landed at Normandy and was among the first allied personnel to liberate the concentration camps in Germany. After his service, he returned to Nebraska and used his GI Bill benefit to complete his undergraduate studies, majoring in English and minoring in music. With his characteristic tenacity he continued his education at University of Nebraska (UN), earning a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology. He worked as a researcher at UN and as a school psychologist for the Omaha School District. He met Dorothy Mae Borgens, an undergraduate studying early childhood education at UN, as Dorothy’s preschool age nieces were subjects in one of Norris’s research projects. “Norrie” fell in love with Dorothy (“she was the cutest thing in shoe leather,” to quote Dr. Haring), and her large German Russian family. He courted Dorothy while driving a 1940’s Ford coupe. They married on Dorothy’s graduation day June 5, 1950.

After both working in the Omaha School district, they relocated to Detroit, MI (Merrill Palmer Institute of family studies) before he was offered a fellowship to Syracuse University, where Dr. Haring earned his doctorate in Education. After completing his Ed.D. Dr. Haring served on the faculty of University of Maryland, followed by the University of Kansas Medical Center, before he was recruited to the University of Washington in 1965, where he created the Experimental Education Unit, the first school to integrate special needs children with typically developing children. At UW for 40-plus years, he distinguished himself on the national and international stages as a visionary pioneer, forever changing the worldwide zeitgeist about the educability and rights of all individuals with special needs (disabilities), and facilitating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975 federal law mandating the appropriate and least restrictive education for all children with disabilities.

From the beginning of their relationship, Norris and Dorothy shared a passionate commitment to public education, early intervention, and the right to an appropriate education for all children. Dr. Haring leaves a lifelong legacy of advocacy for children and adults with varying abilities. He founded the UW’s Experimental Education Unit in 1965 (EEU, UW Autism Center, the Department on Human Disability and Development (DHDD), and the research center now known collectively as The Haring Center), and the International advocacy organization known as TASH, originally called The Association for the Severely Handicapped. Dr. Haring’s leadership, research and over 200 publications (including books and peer-reviewed articles) as well as the many graduate students he mentored, demonstrated that children with disabilities can be educated and live productive lives. His generation of special educators became politically adept, culminating with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Equal Education Act (1975), which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson (with Dr. Haring being present). ADA ramps and restrooms are now the norm due to the tireless sacrifices and efforts of Dr. Haring and his generation of special educators.

Dr. Haring, by example, exhibited his consistent belief that education is the great equalizer, and should be available to everyone. He instilled his passion for education and his belief in social justice not only to his peers and students in academia, but as the core value within his family. Ever the intellectual, he was a lifelong agnostic, but being Norrie, he always welcomed with an open mind informed discourse about any shared topic of interest. His innate nature of kindness and acceptance of every person was evident in how Norris and Dorothy raised their children – Thomas Grover, Kathryn Ann and Martha Lynn – in the Universalist Unitarian church, which gave ample opportunities to improve the lives of less fortunate individuals by helping on the front lines.

As a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he was known only as “Baa,” a name given to him by his first grandson, Danny. To all of us he was known as “the Baa.” Words cannot do justice to the love we felt for him. He never shamed. His inherent kindness was deeply rooted in his personality, and no manner of behavior (by his children) could illicit meanness from him. Forever the clinician, common games would include tests of memory and (his favorite), willpower. For example, one could have two cherries rather than just one on their sundae if they managed to resist eating them until the end.

Dr. Haring was a passionate jazz devotee, as a fan, trumpeter, and bandleader. During college and graduate school, he played jazz trumpet professionally to make ends meet. The family has fond memories of various quartets of professors riffing and performing in the family home. Jazz was constantly playing in the background, and when the music stirred him, Dr. Haring would twirl his index finger with the beat and say, “This is how you conduct this.”

Another passion for him was cars! Dr. Haring associated the eras of his life by which car he was driving. He continued to collect classic cars throughout his life, participated in car shows, and even contributed to a private car museum in Kirkland, WA. During a joy ride in one of his Rolls-Royces, he was asked by some youngsters in a neighboring car if he had any Grey Poupon. He enjoyed playing chauffeur in his Rolls-Royce Cornish Drophead Cabriolet, driving his friend’s children on their wedding day.

Dr. Haring is survived by wife of 69 years, Dorothy Mae, daughters Dr. Kathryn Ann Haring of Norman Oklahoma (Dr. David Lovett), and Dr. Martha Haring Groeschell of Edmonds (Bob Groeschell), and he was predeceased by his son, Dr. Thomas Grover Haring of Santa Barbara CA, in 1993. Norris and Dorothy are also survived by their grandchildren, Dr. Daniel C. Fredrickson and his wife Dr. Rie Fredrickson (Madison, WI); Master Sergeant (retired) Craig Norris Fredrickson and his wife, Lindsey Shipley (Lacey, WA); John Thomas Fredrickson (Edmonds, WA); Lauren Elise Haring (Kozel); Dr. Anna Haring, Dr. Cate Haring and Lara Haring-Lovett (Norman, OK); and six great grandchildren.

A private family funeral took place July 19 at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, in La Conner, WA, Rev. Dr. James Wellman officiating. Please send donations to The Haring Center at the University of Washington. The family would like to thank staff and caregivers at Edmonds Landing, Cascade Home Health, and Providence Hospice for their care and attention.

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