A Bird's Eye View of the Future
Story and Photos by Caitlyn Shumaker
Thirty-one years of flying but it never gets old. Having a bird’s eye view of the world. Taking your friends along to help them understand that there is so much more to see. That’s exciting! Flying is more than just a hobby to this pilot, this big-picture perspective describes how Norman Hopper guides students to a future they didn’t know were possible.
“I love Tech and I am proud to be a part of the university again doing everything I can to help students succeed,” Hopper said.
Hopper, associate academic dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University, has served as a faculty member and has devoted his time to the ag students since 1976.
Hopper grew up on a farm in Petersburg, Texas, learning the intricacies of agriculture. Raised with the responsibilities of working on a farm, Hopper, and his younger brother learned discipline, the importance of agriculture and the ambition to further his education. Deciding on a college was an easy task for Hopper; he knew he wanted to attend Tech and study agriculture. In 1965, he completed his bachelor’s degree and then master’s degree in 1967, both in agronomy. Then in 1970, Hopper graduated with his Ph.D. in crop physiology with a minor in plant physiology from Iowa State University.
Upon graduation from Iowa State, Hopper joined the Iowa State faculty and taught classes in the plant and soil science department for five years. In 1976, Hopper and his family moved back to Lubbock, Texas, after accepting a job in the plant and soil science department at Tech.
“There’s something about Tech that you just can’t stay away from, so I came back and have been here ever since,” Hopper said as he beamed with joy.
Hopper is actively involved in CASNR. He serves as the advisor for Ag Council, member of the Tech Academic Council, and the founder and leader of the study abroad trip to China.
Additionally, he oversees the agricultural scholarship program and is the director for the Congressional Internship program. Even though he is constantly busy making decisions and advising, he still finds time to teach classes in the Plant and Soil Science Department and reach out to his students.
“The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to work closely with the students,” Hopper said. “It brightens my day that I get to help and interact with the ag kids.”
Hopper has helped many students with their education, career opportunities and life decisions. Clayton Cobb, senior pre-veterinarian major from Estancia, N.M., serves on the board of multiple organizations and gives all of the credit for his success to Hopper.
“I was looking to become involved with Tech and Hopper encouraged me to join the Pre-Vet Society at Texas Tech; since then I have become a part of many organizations,” Cobb said. “Through his belief in me, I now continue my Ag Council vice presidency and hold many positions in the Texas Tech University Senate.”
“His generosity and care for me and every student that has come into contact with him is amazing. I have never met a more approachable and kind-hearted individual in my life,” Cobb said.
Dr. Hopper oversees the CASNR Congressional Internship program affiliated with the U.S. Senate office in Washington, D.C. Each spring and fall semester Tech sends about five CASNR students to Washington, D.C., to intern with the U.S. senator and government. Stephen Sheppard, from Grapevine, Texas, majoring in wildlife management, was one of the chosen individuals to represent Tech through the congressional internship.
“Without Hopper’s help and encouragement, the internship wouldn’t have been possible,” Sheppard said about his acceptance for the congressional internship.
Hopper flew to Washington, D.C., a couple of times to check up with the interns and see how things were going. During his visit, he took the CASNR interns to dinner. Sheppard said Hopper was very caring and interested in how their experiences were going and what all they were learning.
“He was very personable and sincere during the whole experience,” Sheppard said. “I always felt comfortable going to him if I needed anything. I still have a great relationship with him today, and I know that he would make himself available if I needed him for advice or just as a friend.”
Hopper has been at Tech for a little over 30 years and has enjoyed working with students the most. Hopper always has a smile on his face and is happy to see his visitors anytime they stop by to visit.
Lybby Brown has worked for Tech since 1992 and has worked as Hopper’s assistant for the past seven years. She manages Hopper’s calendar, assists his classes when needed, books travel arrangements and administers the CASNR scholarship committee.
“He has always been so helpful,” Brown said. “If I ever have a problem, I know that I can go to him.” She said he is a caring and honest person and it shows through when he works with students every day.
Brown said Hopper is easy to work with, very flexible and is always open to welcome others whenever they need help, advice or just someone to talk to. She says he is focused when he is working and he scares easily if he is sneaked up on.
“If you surprise him while he is concentrating on work, he will jump three inches out of his chair!” Brown said while laughing. “So I usually tap on the door so he knows I’m there.”
Hopper has been a strong contribution to Tech over the past 34 years. Seeing everything from a bird’s eye view, he has an advantage to help any student who comes into his office for help or just to chat. He has been a proud supporter and representative of CASNR and Tech. He should be proud of what all he has accomplished during his time at Tech, and know that his contributions have not gone unnoticed.