Renaissance Man: A Profile Of Norman Greenberg

Donor Norman Greenberg

Norman Greenberg

To have a conversation with Norman Greenberg is to see the world through the eyes of an anthropologist, musician, social activist and administrative leader. An alumnus of The Juilliard School with a degree in French horn, Dr. Greenberg has worked around the world visiting no less than 68 countries. He and his wife of 60 years, Dr. Gilda Greenberg, are philanthropists as well, and their wide-ranging generosity includes two charitable gift annuities with The Juilliard School.

Now 82 and still playing chamber music, Dr. Greenberg is full of interesting stories of his life and his time at Juilliard. I recently had a conversation with him about his career and what the School has meant to him.

"Juilliard was the first school I attended. I had a scholarship and studied there before and after World War II." Greenberg spent 3 years overseas in the U.S. Marine Corps. He fondly remembers his teacher at Juilliard, Robert Schulze, for whom he occasionally substituted in the New York Philharmonic. After earning his bachelor's degree on scholarship from Juilliard, Norman Greenberg ('49) played with numerous professional ensembles and was first horn in the Radio City Orchestra prior to leaving New York. He was also an original member of the New York Brass Ensemble. For Greenberg, Juilliard not only transformed his musicianship, it was also his first exposure to formal education, and it whetted his appetite for more. He recalls, "If it wasn't for Juilliard, and several of my teachers, I never would have moved on to other things."

That multitude of "other things" he speaks of includes anthropology. Dr. Greenberg became fascinated by that field, and later earned a master's degree at Columbia and a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Norman Greenberg then spent the bulk of his career in higher education, and his past positions include Dean of the College of General Studies at Western Michigan University and Senior Advisor to the President, for International Affairs at the same institution.

A true renaissance man, his passions include Mandarin, opera and the Native American basketry and rugs, he and his wife have devoted considerable study to. Their interest in world culture is more than matched by their enthusiasm for social activism. Norman and Gilda Greenberg consider their greatest accomplishment to be their advocacy of desegregation in the 1960s and '70s, when they worked at several higher education institutions in Nashville, Tennessee. They were also invited to speak throughout the South.

When Norman Greenberg retired from Western Michigan University he created a charitable unitrust for that school in honor of his tenure there. He has followed that with charitable gift annuities and significant contributions to The Juilliard School and other organizations.

Most recently, he donated two rare horns to Juilliard's brass department: an 18th Century "cor de chasse" and an antique orchestral horn made in 1810. Other instruments from his collection have been given to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

After their retirement, Norman and Gilda Greenberg moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where they served as Senior Research Associates at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. After 13 years in Santa Fe the Greenbergs settled in a long-term retirement community in Durham, North Carolina where they remain busy and active in the community. Dr. Greenberg has maintained his association with many musician friends and stays in touch with other Juilliard alumni. "Juilliard gave me a foundation for so much of what happened later in my life." As he reflected on his decision to create a gift annuity with Juilliard, he remarked, "It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be able to give back."

By Lori Bierly