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Hampshire College Mourns the Loss of Professor Emeritus and Author Norton Juster

Juster taught architecture and environmental design at Hampshire College from the college’s founding in 1970 until Juster’s retirement in 1992.

Norton Juster
Norton Juster photo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

The Hampshire College community is deeply saddened by the recent passing of professor emeritus Norton Juster. Juster taught architecture and environmental design at Hampshire College from the college’s founding in 1970 until Juster’s retirement in 1992.

Juster's fantasy adventure children's novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, was first published in 1961, and sold more than three million copies. The book was later adapted into a film, opera, and play, and even inspired a post-punk/noise rock band to name themselves after the popular work. While perhaps best known by many for Tollbooth, Juster’s architectural career was his main professional focus for much of his life.

Earl Pope, who team-taught with Juster for many years, recalled, “We came to Hampshire because the idea of a college that would incorporate something like architecture into a liberal arts curriculum was very exciting. We felt architecture was too important to leave to the professionals. Juster wondered, ‘How do we get students to respond in a knowing and learned way about the environment?’ We also shared an office, and students would wait outside to meet him because they were thrilled to meet the author of the book. He would modestly thank them, and then ask, ‘But what do you want to do?’”

Beyond teaching architecture at Hampshire, Juster also designed Emily Dickinson Hall and the Charles and Polly Longsworth Arts Village on the College’s campus, which houses the Music and Dance Building, the Arts Barn, and the Jerome Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video. After Juster’s retirement, his architectural firm also designed the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art, which opened on the Hampshire College campus in 2002, appropriately marrying his love of illustrated books and dynamic construction.

“Norton was one of the most creative, iconoclastic, and brilliant people I have ever known. His wheels were always turning. He also understood how young people learn and how to make that learning exciting. I think that is why he was so beloved by generations of his students,” said former Hampshire College Board of Trustees Chair Sigmund Roos 73F.

Alum and writer Sarah Buttenwieser 81F reflected on her friendship with Norton, "As I got to know him best starting with the earliest days at the Eric Carle Museum where the apple orchard still stands, he struck me as Hampshire in a person form. He was all the things that exemplify Hampshire: curious, willing to be (maybe unable not to be at times) irreverent, a connector and appreciator of people, community, family, and things that challenged, changed, and delighted others. He was so clearly part of Hampshire's DNA."

“He was great fun,” said Pope. “And a great person.”

Juster died at his home in Northampton, Massachusetts on March 8, 2021, at the age of 91. He is survived by his daughter, Emily and granddaughter, Tori, both of Amherst.

Read more about Juster’s legacy in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Read an article on Juster in Rolling Stone.

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