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Norm Schoenthal, a public figure in Billings, passes away

Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-02 11:09:41-04

BILLINGS — Norm Schoenthal, who was a professor at MSUB for nearly 30 years, and had Norm’s Island in Billings named after him, has passed away.

Schoenthal worked in the biological science department at Eastern Montana College – now MSUB from 1966 to 1994. He was also essential in the creation and continuation of the Yellowstone River Parks Association (YRPA) which owns and maintains nearly 1000 acres of land along the Yellowstone River, including the Riverfront Park trail system and Norms Island.

"Norm has been an inspiration to so many people over the years. After I got to know him, I would find that whenever I would mention his name in public a number of people would say oh, I had him as a professor,” said Roger Williams, the former president of YRPA and a friend of Schoenthal.

After leaving teaching in 1994, Schoenthal continued to dedicate his life to ecology, bird watching, and the outdoors as one of the leaders of YRPA.

“Along the way, Norm was instrumental in recruiting volunteers, and collaborating with the alternatives which is another nonprofit organization to take youth who have gotten in trouble and need to do community service and many of the improvements you see were actually done by the alternatives. A lot of those youth really benefited and were really inspired by Norm,” said Williams.

Another who was inspired by Schoenthal was one of his former students - Cynthia Rogers, who in 2011 created a scholarship at MSUB in Schoenthal's name. The scholarship is still active today.

“Norm’s intellect in Biology, Ecology, birding, things of that sort, his energy, and his public service commitment are his legacy, and his legacy can be seen and enjoyed every day,” said Williams.

Schoenthal is survived by two daughters and a son, and his legacy will also continue through his efforts in ecology.