Norman N. Potter
Monday 6th of March 2023
Norman N. Potter, age 96, passed away peacefully in Lexington KY on March 6, 2023. He was preceded in death by Adele B. Potter, his loving wife of 73 years who passed away just three weeks earlier. He is survived by son and daughter-in-law Daniel and Terri Potter of Lexington; son and daughter-in-law Michael and Ellen Potter of Eugene Oregon (formerly of Lexington); sister and brother-in-law Sari and Robert Langer of Palm Beach Gardens, FL; four grandchildren: Benjamin (Amy), David (Lauren), Joseph (Kathryn), and Megan (Garrett); seven great-grandchildren, Callie, Adele, Emma, Katie, Evelyn, Graham, and Gideon; and nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Born in New York City in 1926, beloved son of Joseph and Minnie Potter, he grew up in a family of modest means during the Great Depression. He hiked or bicycled out from the city for fishing and other boyhood adventures, the start of a lifelong love of the outdoors that he passed on to his sons. As a teenager, he worked summers in the Victory Farm Volunteers Program which provided city youth labor to alleviate the wartime farm labor shortage and produce food for the Allied war effort. Sent to work on a rural dairy farm, the appreciative farmer encouraged him to pursue higher education. He enlisted in the US Navy at age 18, serving 19 months on a light cruiser and a destroyer escort ship during World War II. He then attended university on the GI Bill, earning a B.S. degree in bacteriology from Cornell University in 1950 and M.S. and Ph.D. in dairy science and microbiology from Iowa State University in 1951 and 1953. He met his wife Adele at Cornell, and they married in 1950 upon their graduation. He worked in industrial food product and process development and food processing research for 13 years before joining the faculty of the Department of Food Science at Cornell University in 1966 and moving back to Ithaca, NY with his family.
At Cornell he developed and taught courses in food science to thousands of students and directed the research of numerous graduate students including many from developing countries. He conducted cutting-edge research on processing effects on microbial safety and functional and nutritional properties of foods, and preservation of foods for developing regions. He spent sabbatical leaves as a visiting scientist and curriculum developer at the University of Puerto Rico, as consultant and program planner for the US-FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in Washington, DC, and as a visiting professor at the University of Reading, England. He provided leadership to scientific organizations and received many academic honors including national awards for excellence in teaching and research. Among his many scholarly publications, he authored the book Food Science in 1968. Now in its 5th edition it has been translated into multiple languages and continues to be a leading textbook in universities worldwide. In 1992, he retired from Cornell as Professor Emeritus and moved with his wife Adele to Lexington, KY to be nearer their children and grandchildren. Their sons, now retired, were both Professors of Entomology at the University of Kentucky.
Norman Potter was a wise, thoughtful, soft-spoken person who treated everyone he encountered with dignity and respect. He was a lifetime learner, avid reader, amateur artist, world traveler, harmonica player, lover of classic movies, Chinese food, and good pizza, and was still catching bass from his lawn chair beside a farm pond on his 96th birthday. He and his sweetheart Adele had a wonderful marriage and a blessed life. He was a beloved father, brother, grandpa, and great-grandpa, and he will be dearly missed by his family and many friends. A private graveside service will be held at the Lexington Cemetery. A celebration of life will be held in the Spring. Memorial donations are encouraged to the Temple Adath Israel Social Action Fund (https://lextai.org/), Habitat for Humanity, or God’s Pantry. To share a remembrance of Norman or to offer condolences to his family, please visit Milward-funeral.com.
Dr. Potter was an influential mentor for generations of Cornell food scientists. I am so grateful for his kindly guidance and wisdom. Sending thanks to his family for sharing him with all of us.
I had the pleasure of being Dr Potter’s teaching assistant for Food Science 101 my first semester as a grad student at Cornell. I still remember loading his slides for each lecture and operating the projector from the back. His lectures drew on his broad industry & research experiences. He always appreciated that I was a farm girl from the Midwest with a hard work ethic. Now I know why after reading about his boyhood working on a dairy farm. He was a gem and touched many students’ lives.
Norm and Adele have left behind an impressive legacy and will surely be missed by their many friends and family. May their family be comforted with all the happy memories they have of them.
I had the unique pleasure of working with Dr. Potter at Cornell for both my MS degree and then returning years later to work for him again for my PhD. Norman was a hardworking, very smart and strategic scientist and mentor who inspired me to pursue a long and successful career in the food industry. He was a challenging leader who inspired thousands of students with his comprehensive Food Science class that he taught each year, but he was also very personable and fun to work with. I fondly recall late afternoon discussions and debates that would go on until Adele would phone him to remind him to come home for dinner. He was both inspirational and fun to work with. When my oldest daughter was born in Ithaca while I was still a PhD candidate and far from family, Norm and Adele were among the first visitors at our home where they gave her a beautiful Raggedy Ann doll. Lauren just passed on this same doll to her own infant daughter and it is a nice reminder of my longterm friendship with the Potters. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the family. Don and Leslie Lynch Ipswich, MA
I had the pleasure of driving Mr. & Mrs. Potter thru Independent Transportation Network and always looked forward to their rides. They told great stories and were a delight to visit with. My condolences to all the family.