In memoriam: Johann Albert Norstedt, chair of the English department from 1997 to 2002
November 11, 2020
Johann Norstedt, a longtime faculty member and leader in the Virginia Tech Department of English, died Oct. 28. He was 83.
Norstedt’s admirable career of service at Virginia Tech began in 1972 and spanned four decades. He taught a variety of courses, including undergraduate classes in modern drama, Irish literature, and business writing, as well as graduate-level seminars on the works of the poet William Butler Yeats.
Norstedt served as chair of the English department from 1997 until his retirement in 2002. Additional leadership roles in the department included undergraduate chair and director of advising, for which he won the Virginia Tech Alumni Advisor of the Year Award in 1994.
During the 1982–83 academic year, Norstedt served as president of the Faculty Senate. He later served the university as chair of the Commission on Faculty Affairs, a member of the University Council, and a member of university president and provost search committees. Beginning in 1986, he was a member of the University Club Board of Directors and later became the club’s president.
Following his retirement, Norstedt served as a member of the English department’s alumni board.
Norstedt is often cited in news articles for providing an answer to the question, “What is a Hokie?” In 2007, he told The Chicago Tribune the term had been around at least since 1842 as a word “to express approval, excitement, or surprise.”
In 2009, Norstedt sponsored the Marilyn Norstedt Memorial Concert in honor of his late wife, a longtime Virginia Tech librarian and founding member of Musica Viva!, an organization created to bring chamber music and other performances by internationally acclaimed musicians to communities across Southwest Virginia.
In 2018, Norstedt further cemented his legacy of support for the arts by establishing the Johann & Marilyn Norstedt Scholarship for Voice at Radford University.
Norstedt published a biography of the Irish writer Thomas MacDonagh and wrote articles on Irish and Irish-American literature.
Outside the classroom, Norstedt served as a member and national secretary of the American Conference for Irish Studies, organizing two annual conventions for the group in Roanoke and Blacksburg.
Norstedt lived a life of adventure, traveling to more than 50 countries. He earned his Ph.D. in Anglo-Irish studies from the National University of Ireland in 1972 before teaching at Temple University, the American University of Beirut, and University College, Dublin.