A final farewell to Norman Rice | Epsom College
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A final farewell to Norman Rice

In May we received the very sad news that Norman Rice had died from cancer.

Norman was appointed in 1971 as the head of a brand new department called Economics. His brief was to establish and nurture the new subject so it would fit within Epsom’s Sixth Form curriculum. Thanks to Norman’s energy and enthusiasm, the department never looked back, growing rapidly and with excellent results right from the start.

Norman came to the College with a great reputation as a sportsman, as well as an economist. He had already represented Surrey at athletics, soccer and basketball before he went into teaching, and his love of athletics never waned from his earliest days when he was a local boy at Glyn Grammar School.  In his prime, he excelled as a Triple Jumper and he continued to compete at veteran meetings long after most of his contemporaries had retired.  Norman gave a full contribution to College sport, encouraging football at a time when rugby was very dominant and coaching scores of Epsomians and local athletes, many of whom went on to success at county and national level.

“There was always a twinkle behind the stern exterior and a shared joy with every triumph.”

Norman was first a tutor in Propert and then Crawfurd before becoming Fayrer Housemaster from 1978 to 1993. Andrew Wilkins (Fa 1985-90) recounts his time in the House, “My parents were thousands of miles away yet DNR made my time at the College feel safe and secure, where hard work was rewarded, where boundaries could be gently pushed but where switching off was not an option. There was always a twinkle behind the stern exterior and a shared joy with every triumph.” Stuart Head, current Fayrer Housemaster and a member of Fayrer 1987-92 says, “He was someone I always looked up to; he was a lovely man who had the perfect blend of personality, character, warmth and ferocity to be the ultimate school master.”

By Norman’s side was his wife Carole, a member of the College’s games department for many years, whose support of Norman’s commitment to the College and the House was invaluable. In his article in the Fayrer Reunion booklet, Norman recalls Carole’s role as a Housemaster’s wife, “Without her support, answering and recording messages for me, entertaining, offering advice, coaching and encouragement, life would have been much more difficult: all this at a time when College did not recognise a  Housemaster’s wife as a key person.”  Norman was also assisted in the House by Tutors Jud Drinkall and Mike Oliver.Following his tenure in Fayrer, Norman became Third Master, then Second Master and finally Deputy Head under Headmaster Tony Beadles.  When he retired in 2003, he agreed to fill in a gap in the Economics department as a part-time teacher for two years.  At that time Norman was also persuaded to take on the role of Hon Secretary of the OE Club. He was a huge asset, he had an incredible memory and names of past pupils came very easily to him.  

“The man simply was indefatigable; he imbued all the finest qualities of a complete schoolmaster, he will be missed.”

Norman had to relinquish the role three years later as his part-time teaching continued to expand, filling another nine years of his life. In 2015 Norman finally hung up his gown for good to spend more time with Carole, his three daughters Jenny, Zoe and Danni, and his grandchildren. However, he was still to be seen at the College coaching athletics – right up until lockdown – and regularly attended OE events, his last ones being the Fayrer House Reunion and the OE Annual Dinner last autumn.  Up until he died, Norman was also an invaluable member of the Education Trust’s fundraising sub-committee.

Upon the announcement of Norman’s death, the OE Club received an outpouring of messages of condolence for his family and it was clear that he had made a huge impact on innumerable OEs’ lives. Widely respected and admired by pupils and colleagues alike, he has been described as: a legend; an all-round amazing person; an outstanding teacher and man; an inspirational figure; my hero.   Jay Piggot, Headmaster, says, “The man simply was indefatigable; he imbued all the finest qualities of a complete schoolmaster, he will be missed.”

If circumstances allow, a Memorial Service for Norman will be held at the College during the summer term next year. In the meantime, a selection of OEs’ memories and reflections on Norman will appear in the next edition of the OE Magazine.  To read former Master Kevin Shaw’s piece on Norman when he first retired, click here.