Oct. 9, 2013
By Christi Mathis
Southern Illinois University
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The grand marshal of the 2013 Southern Illinois University Homecoming is a man whose strong ties to the university go back more than half a century.
William R. Norwood, retired United Airlines captain, veteran and former longtime member of the SIU Board of Trustees, will lead the parade at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19. Norwood, a Centralia native and longtime Carbondale resident now living in Mesa, Ariz., earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at SIU in 1959. He was SIU’s first black quarterback, a three-year starter and an inductee into the SIU Carbondale Hall of Fame.
Norwood served in the U.S. Air Force from 1959 to 1965, piloting a B-52. He then had a 31-year career with United Airlines, becoming the company’s first African-American pilot and the first to achieve the rank of captain. He is a founding member of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots and served on the SIU Board of Trustees from 1974 to 2001. He earned his MBA at the University of Chicago.
The Norwood family connection to SIU is quite extensive. His wife, Molly is a 1961 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education. She also holds a master’s degree and specialist certificate from Northern Illinois University and is a former elementary school teacher who has served on numerous commissions and boards, including the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Illinois Community College Board.
Their son, George, is a SIU Law School graduate, currently serving as Assistant United State’s Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. Bill Norwood’s brother, Richard and his wife, Joyce, are also SIU alumni.
Bill Norwood has devoted countless hours to mentoring young people and giving back to the community and the university in a number of ways. He established the William R. Norwood Aviation Scholarship Endowment Fund, providing an annual scholarship to an SIU aviation student and along with Molly, Joyce and Richard Norwood, established a scholarship endowment to assist students in the med-prep program.
Now retired, Norwood remains active, serving as vice-president of the Phoenix Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., working in his church, traveling and playing golf. He also continues to visit schools and mentor youths.
Of his selection as Homecoming Grand Marshal, Norwood said it is “a humbling honor of which I, along with my wife, am very proud.”
“SIU has helped my family members and me get a great education so that we could take advantage of the available opportunities,” Norwood added.