By Janice Beetle ’85
Athletics led Kathy Norton ’87 to become the first person in her family to graduate from college. She ran cross-country and track in high school in Billerica, where she was the second female athlete to earn 12 varsity letters. College recruiters came knocking on her door. While Norton visited schools like Boston College and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, she knew Westfield State was the home for her as soon as she drove by Stanley Park. She loved the friendly feel of the campus.
Despite a learning disability, Norton did well academically and excelled as an athlete, running cross-country and track and field; she earned regional and national honors throughout her college career. In 2011, she was inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Norton has run equally hard in her career. She tried to use her bachelor’s degree in elementary education after graduation, but teaching jobs were scarce in the late 1980s, and, as a perpetual long-term substitute, Norton got pink-slipped every year. She took a job driving for UPS 30 years ago and soon shifted into sales and, later, management. She now travels internationally on UPS projects and special assignments and is involved with training over 40,000 UPS managers.
Norton lives in Boston with her spouse, Kate Sullivan. She spends weekends by the ocean in Maine and loves to travel. We interviewed her recently.
How did Westfield State impact your life and career?
Profoundly. I got tutoring help, and my professors knew about my learning disability and supported me. That was really big. There was pressure to succeed as an athlete, which I could manage because of the support. The friends I made are lifelong friends. I can pick up the phone and connect like it was yesterday. Westfield State provided a solid education, allowing me to develop strong communication and analytical skills, along with teamwork and collaboration skills from competing in athletics.
In what ways have you stayed connected to the university?
Coach Jerry Gravel, who coached men’s cross-country when I was in school, is a longtime mentor and leader.
He is a big inspiration to all track and field folks. He posts to all of us on Facebook, and, occasionally, we get together with the men’s and women’s cross-country track teams from my era. I’ve had people to my apartment for cocktails. I give back now, making gifts to support women’s track and field.
Why is it important to you to give back?
Westfield State will always hold a special place in my heart. It set me up for success as an adult. I think it’s really important as alumni that if you can give back to the community in any way you can—volunteer, attend events, give financially—you should consider it. Without the solid education and the people I met, I would not be in the position I’m in today.