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UPG professor a champion of the written word

Chuck Biedka
| Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Norm McWhinney
University of Pittsburgh Greensburg
Norm McWhinney

A man of arts and letters and many other roles will be remembered at a memorial service Saturday at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.

The service for professor emeritus Norman McWhinney will begin at 2 p.m. in the Campana Chapel, 150 Finoli Drive, Hempfield.

McWhinney, 85, of Greensburg died Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, at his home.

The son of a barber, Mr. McWhinney was a husband, father, military veteran and educator who was the first English professor at Pitt-Greensburg.

Mr. McWhinney was often heard saying teaching wasn't work. For him, teaching was fulfilling. He always said he “never worked a day in his life.”

He didn't ignore student concerns about the Vietnam War and society. Instead, he was concerned and got involved in societal issues, friends and former students said.

In appreciation, the Norman McWhinney Scholarship for Excellence in Written Communication is an annual award still presented by the university, said friend and fellow professor Norman Scanlon.

Mr. McWhinney was an Army veteran of the Korean War.

As the school's first English professor on campus, teaching literature and poetry, he chaired the department until he could return to the classroom “to make it fun for students,” said his widow, Michalene McWhinney.

“He brought joy,” she said. “He was funny and very, very witty. The students loved him. He made learning fun.”Mr. McWhinney always had a pun on his lips, and he was a poetry writer who enjoyed leading others to enjoy the art of verse, Scanlon said.

Mr. McWhinney liked acting and directing civic theater productions.

He was comfortable wearing lederhosen, the leather breeches worn in Central Europe. He helped German professor Ruth Kuschmiez introduce Octoberfest and the German Society to students at Pitt-Greensburg.

So successful was his immersion into that role that he was soon inviting high schools across Western Pennsylvania to send students, Kuschmierz said. They were served apple cider instead of beer, she laughed.

“Now, Octoberfest is a very common thing. It wasn't when he got involved,” Kuschmierz said. “He really made the Greensburg campus popular, and he cultivated a love of travel and Germany.”

He also had varied interests, including the defense of civil rights. In 1991, The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms honored him as citizen of the year for his efforts.

In addition to his wife, Mr. McWhinney is survived by sons, Mark McWhinney and Craig McWhinney; stepchildren Margie Keno, Amy Spears and Natalie Harris; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to The Norman McWhinney Scholarship for Excellence in Writing, 150 Finoli Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, cbiedka@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

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