Fred Norman, first director of Morrison Center, dies at 78

The 'contagiously enthusiastic' theater professor helped create Boise's cultural jewel.

doland@idahostatesman.comJuly 6, 2013 

  • MEMORIALS SET FOR VELMA MORRISON

    Two public memorial services will honor the longtime Boise patroness and community figure. Morrison, the widow of engineering mogul Harry W. Morrison, died June 20 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at age 92.

    The two services honor different qualities of Morrison's life, the family said in a press release.

    The first service will be at 3 p.m. July 14 at the First United Methodist "Cathedral of the Rockies," 717 N. 11 St., Boise.

    The second, larger service will be held sometime in early fall at the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, on Boise State University's campus. The exact date will be announced later.

Fred Norman and Velma Morrison would sit at the Pantry Restaurant for hours drawing plans. They traveled the country and to Europe looking at performing arts venues.

During those years, Norman and Morrison created the community movement to build the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts.

"It's so ironic that he died so close to her," said Morrison's daughter Judyth Roberts. Morrison died June 20 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at 92.

Norman died July 2 in his home in Mesquite, Nev. No cause of death is yet known.

Morrison and Norman met in 1969 and almost immediately began talking about building a world-class theater in Boise.

"With Velma, he was the Morrison Center," remembered his friend Tim Woodward. "She relied on him more than anyone, and like all of us she had enormous respect for his intelligence and expertise. He was contagiously enthusiastic and one of the most likable people I've known."

Norman came to Boise from his home state of Pennsylvania in 1955 to play football at Boise Junior College.

He married Joretta Moeller of Ontario in 1959. They moved to Tempe, Ariz., where he taught theater and coached football.

Norman returned to Boise in about 1969 and continued as a theater professor and coach for Boise State quarterbacks for many years, including Dee Pickett. He also became a confidant for Pickett's brother Jay.

"He was a mentor and one of the reasons I committed to being an actor," Jay Pickett said. "I changed my major to theater after a conversation with him. He was a big influence in my life. He even read my 'Soda Springs' script and gave me the suggestion to shoot in Emmett."

"Soda Springs," starring Pickett, won the People's Choice Award at the Sun Valley Film Festival in 2012.

Norman served as the executive director at the Morrison Center from 1982 to 1989. The center opened to the public in 1984 with a production of "My Fair Lady," directed by Norman.

He retired in 1994 but he stayed involved in the university's culture until 1999, and helped with the efforts to build the Boise State Pavilion (Taco Bell Arena).

Norman was inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame in 2007. He received the Idaho Distinguished Citizen Award and the Governor's Award for Support of the Arts in 1982, among other accolades.

Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland

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