Alumnus Norman Hausmann
‘I loved it here, in my own simple way, and I still do.’
Anyone who watched Norman Hausmann walk through the Student Center on a recent March morning, would be certain he is a professor.
Wearing a crisp navy blazer, with a briefcase tucked under one arm, and his scholarly, tortoise-shell eye glasses, Hausmann strolls confidently, greeting many with a warm hello.
CCSU, he will tell you, is a place he loves. Higher education is an opportunity he holds especially dear. And, 58 years after he graduated, the campus is still a place where he relishes spending time.
“I was a terrible student in high school,’’ he said. “I was very shy and introverted. I had no ambition and no motivation.’’
He earned an A in high school geometry, and the teacher, who was also a guidance counselor, suggested he follow a college track. After high school graduation in 1950, he thought about pursuing teaching, and Hausmann applied to Teachers College of Connecticut (now CCSU).
At that time, an interview was required.
“My knees were shaking, I was so nervous,’’ he said. He had to read aloud to the provost, whom he recalled as an intimidating woman. “I was convinced I blew the interview. I was waiting for a bus home to East Hartford, and I was so angry at myself for being so nervous. I was convinced I would never make it in here, and by then I really wanted to enroll.’’
A few weeks later, to Hausmann’s shock, he received an acceptance letter. He was the first member of his family to attend college.
CCSU was different back then. The New Britain campus was very rural. In fact, Hausmann recalls there was a farm at one end and a cider mill nearby. Tuition for the entire year was $63. Hausmann was a commuter, and he worked as a short-order cook in his hometown to pay for his education. Most of his classes were either in Davidson Hall or a satellite classroom building in downtown New Britain.
“The classes were very crowded with returning GIs,’’ he said. “But there was a genuine sense of camaraderie among the students.’’
His first two years were rather uneventful, but by junior year that all changed.
“I just fell in love with the college,’’ Hausmann said. “All of that changed my life in a very positive way.
“I was extremely shy, and small for my age.
I wasn’t a good athlete. I didn’t think I had much potential in life,’’ he said. “But, somehow, that potential got awakened here.’’
It would be impossible, Hausmann said, to credit one person or one event for changing his outlook. But he believes the combination of the intellectual—new knowledge, ideas and concepts that fascinated him—and the social—associations, friendships and respected professors—gave him a new direction.
After graduation, Hausmann thought he might want to teach college geography. But a two-year stint in the Army (stationed in the Panama Canal) interrupted those plans. When he was discharged, he drove into Hartford and knocked on some doors until he got three job offers. He accepted the highest paying one ($4,800 a year) working in the pension department at Connecticut General Life Insurance.
“How would you like to work in the group pensions department?’’ his future boss asked him. Hausmann laughs now. He had no idea what that entailed, but needed a job, so he eagerly signed on.
He thought it would be a temporary job until he found a teaching position, but “within a few months, I was hooked.’’
Hausmann went on to a career in sales and management of corporate retirement plans. After almost 50 years in the business, he retired from Connecticut Mutual. Many of his customers became his friends.
“It was a terrific way to make a living,’’ he said. “We had a sense that we were helping people have a more comfortable retirement, not just the wealthy, but the people working in factories, the people with families who wanted to send their children to college.
“None of that would have happened if I hadn’t come here,’’ Hausmann said. “I loved it here in my own simple way, and I still do.’’
Looking around the bustle of students during a recent interview at the Devil’s Den, Hausmann smiles.
“I’ll bet 75 percent of these students don’t realize what an amazing opportunity they have,’’ he said. “But that’s OK. I didn’t realize it when I was their age either!’’
Hausmann, a man of boundless curiosity, still takes college classes, attends CCSU basketball games, and is a huge Red Sox fan. He is active in local politics and is writing a research paper on the history of Hartford’s Bulkley Stadium.
In 1960, Hausmann married his sweetheart, Mary, a nurse, and they had two sons, Daniel and James, whom he describes today as his “best friends.’’ Free time was for family.
Many decades passed when he had no contact with CCSU. Then, six months after he retired, he got a postcard inviting him to attend an alumni lunch. At the last minute, he decided to go.
“At that lunch, I decided to try to do something here. I approached the staff and asked them if I could help them in any way,’’ he said and chuckled. “Now I’m here all the time.’’
The original plan was to donate a painting or a sculpture to campus, but the idea quickly grew. The Class of ’54 decided to create a scholarship fund and—fueled by their 50th reunion—received many generous donations. So far, the program has aided 10 students in their dreams of becoming educators.
“I think Central provides a wonderful opportunity for young people to get a start,’’ Hausmann said. “We’ve helped some really good kids.’’ The donors find it satisfying to know they are not only helping the current students, but all the children those graduates will teach in years to come.
“I don’t know why every class doesn’t create a scholarship, or plant a tree or do something for the University,’’ he said. “It is really important, before all of us are gone, to say, “This is the Class of 1954. We were here, and here’s something we did to give back.’ It gives you a terrific sense of satisfaction.’’
Claire LaFleur Hall