Professor  Norman Itzkowitz, 87

Professor Norman Itzkowitz, 87,  passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on January 20 in Princeton, New Jersey, where he had resided for over 65 years. Norman was a beloved professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and served as the Master of Wilson College, one of the University’s residential colleges, from 1975 to 1989. He was the author of a number of highly regarded books in his field of Ottoman and Turkish Studies, including The Ottoman Empire and Islamic Tradition; Mubadele: An Ottoman-Russian Exchange of Ambassadors, co-written with his friend Prof. Max Mote; his translation of Halil Inalcik’s The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600; Immortal Ataturk, co-written with his dear friend and collaborator Dr. Vamik Volkan; and, reflecting the wide range of his academic interests, Turks and Greeks: Neighbors in Conflict, co-written with Dr. Volkan; and Richard Nixon: A Psychobiography, co-written with Dr. Volkan and Andrew Dod. Later in life he wrote a series of children’s history books for Scholastic with co-author Enid Goldberg.

Norman Itzkowitz was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1931. His father, Jack Itzkowitz, was born in Lowicz, which today is in Poland. His mother, the former Gussie Schmier, was born in Bobrka, a suburb of Lviv, which today is in Ukraine.

Norman attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City and then the City College of New York, which was, at the time, known for producing great scholars and not-bad athletes. Norman was both, winning the College’s Cromwell Medal in History and playing on the varsity lacrosse and fencing teams. On graduating from City College he was admitted to Princeton University Graduate School. At Princeton, he studied under his mentor, the great historian Lewis Thomas. Upon his teacher’s death he completed Prof. Thomas’s fundamental Elementary Turkish, still in use today. During graduate school he married his college sweetheart, Leonore Krauss. When he was awarded a prestigious Ford Foundation grant to study in Turkey in the mid-1950’s, she accompanied him and they lived there for several years. They returned to Turkey often in the 1950’s and 60’s, and their son Jay was born in Ankara. Their daughter Karen was born in Princeton.

Well into his traditional academic career Norman developed an interest in psychoanalysis and went back to school in New York City at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. He trained to become a lay analyst, eventually seeing a small number of patients in New York. He felt that becoming a practicing analyst would be the most genuine way to engage in psychohistory, a discipline which merged his two interests. It was during this period that he co-wrote his psychobiography of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, working with Dr. Vamik Volkan of the Psychiatry Department at the University of Virginia Medical School. The book was regarded as a groundbreaking application of psychoanalytic theory to modern Near Eastern history. He extended his academic work in the area of psychoanalysis into hands-on work in the area of inter-ethnic conflict resolution. He traveled to Estonia where he worked with Dr. Volkan on reducing Estonian-Russian tensions following Estonian independence. Prof. Itzkowitz was also one of the earliest Princeton scholars to develop online teaching materials, in particular his online lecture series The Demonization of the Other: The Psychology of Ethnic Conflict in the Balkans.

Perhaps as an outcome of his interest in psychology, Norman became increasingly involved in the on-campus life of the students at Princeton, becoming the Master of Wilson College, one of the residential colleges where students live and take their meals. Norman loved this work and was beloved by the students, who referred to him as ‘Uncle Norm.’ He organized regular trips to New York City to the opera (one of his passions), Broadway shows, and sporting events. He was committed to helping students become compete adults. He viewed exposure to culture and particularly to New York City as vital to this effort. Many of his innovations became standard at the other residential colleges. He served on the Committee on Undergraduate Life (“CURL”) which radically re-organized undergraduate life at Princeton by bringing in the residential college system. While these innovations were objected to at the time by many alumni, today they form the basis of the Princeton undergraduate experience.

Norman’s love of fencing and sports continued throughout his life. He served as a faculty advisor to the successful Princeton fencing and hockey teams. Later in life he was delighted when his granddaughter, Aliya Itzkowitz, became a champion sabre fencer.

Norman is survived by his wife of 65 years, Leonore, his son Jay and his wife Pria Chatterjee and his daughter Karen and her husband A. Norman Redlich, and four granddaughters, Anjali and Aliya Itzkowitz and Ruby and Dvora Redlich. He is also survived by his sister Edith and various nephews, nieces and grandnephews and grandnieces. He also leaves behind a large group of prominent Ottoman historians who studied with him over many years.

He remained fully committed to Princeton until the end, living right in town. Norman and Leonore were a familiar sight taking their usual morning walk along Nassau Street, where he would stop in to see his many friends. Perhaps because of the circumstances of his own childhood he had a way of relating to all he came in contact with, from the most august scholars at the University to its working staff. In many ways he felt closest to those who had not had his advantages and his luck, and to those who had not been surrounded by the same love and affection that he had always felt from his students, friends and family.

Funeral services were Tuesday, January 22 at Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel, Ewing, with burial at Beth Israel Cemetery, Woodbridge. The period of mourning was observed that evening at the Itzkowitz residence in Princeton.

The family respectfully requests memorial contributions to a charity of the donor’s choice.

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