Dr. Norm Armstrong '58 likes to joke about why he chose Wabash College.
"I grew up in a family with eight children-all boys," said the plastic surgeon, who grew up near Fort Wayne. "I'd been in a male fraternity all my life. Wabash was a natural choice."
Perhaps it's more appropriate to say Wabash chose Norm. A Wabash representative sought him out at Northside High School but soon determined that even with a scholarship, the Armstrong family's finances could not afford Norm's college education. Wabash President Frank Sparks flew to Fort Wayne and persuaded E.H. Kilborne to provide an additional scholarship. Norm also worked in the summers to raise college money.
"At that time the College provided a faculty of superbly qualified scholars and chose students with a lot of scrutiny," said Norm, who majored in zoology. "All of us were stimulated to learn and be all that we could be. Unlike my later experience in medical school, the Wabash professors never put us in the position of competing with each other. You were always competing with yourself. I matured in this wonderful melting pot, which had a profound impact on me."
Even with the financial help, though, Norm kept running out of money and didn't graduate until 1961. "The dean of students looked me over and said, 'Norm, it's time to get on with your life,'" he quipped.
After Wabash, Norm matriculated at the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery in Des Moines, Iowa, and did residencies in head and neck and plastic surgery. He has clinical practices in Piqua and Troy, Ohio. Norm helped found the Wright State University Academy of Medicine, where he has taught since 1975. He and his wife Georgia have five grown children and five grandchildren.
"I attribute most of my personal success to my Wabash instructors-Dr. Ed Haenish, Dr. Willis Johnson, and Dr. Elliott Williams, to name a few," Norm said. "Everything I've accomplished I've done so standing on their shoulders and their leadership."
To show his gratitude, Norm finalized last summer a flip charitable remainder unitrust. This kind of trust distributes its net income to the recipient until a specified triggering event, such as a birth, retirement, or death, causes it to switch, or "flip," to pay out a fixed percentage of its annual fair-market value. These trusts allow more flexibility in investing for income and growth. The remaining assets of the trust will benefit Wabash.
"I don't think one can do enough for Wabash for what it did for us," Norm said. "It goes beyond money. If you attended Wabash, you've got to give to the College."