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NASA Physicist, National Park Service Leader Newest Inductees into UI Hall of Fame

April 28, 2017

The University of Idaho Alumni Association will induct two new members into its Hall of Fame at a luncheon on Friday, May 12.

John Norbury and Roger Contor will become the newest members of the Hall of Fame, which was created in 1962 to recognize living alumni who achieved national or international distinction through their accomplishments and leadership.

“These gentlemen embody the value of an UI education,” said Kathy Barnard, executive director of Alumni Relations. “They have remained committed and loyal Vandals while becoming leaders in their respective fields. It is an honor to welcome them into our Hall of Fame.”

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Norbury graduated from UI’s College of Science with a doctorate in theoretical nuclear and particle physics in 1983. He was hired as a post-doctoral research at NASA Langley, and returned to Australia briefly before coming back to the U.S. and entering a career in academia. Norbury was a visiting assistant professor of physics at UI from 1986-87. He joined the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in 1992, moving to UW Milwaukee in 1997. Norbury began working for full time for NASA in 2007 after earning his U.S. citizenship. He is now the lead research physicist at NASA Langley Research Center and leader of the Space Radiation Group.

On Aug. 24, 2016, Norbury received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal, one of the highest honors given by the organization. Norbury’s work centers around calculating the radiation astronauts and spacecraft are likely to experience in space, creating a database of nuclear reaction models, and leading a space radiation summer school for graduate students. Understanding and being able to protect astronauts from radiation is a critical component of NASA’s goal to send a human mission to Mars.

Contor served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War before graduating from UI in 1953 with a degree in zoology from the College of Science. For 30 years, he worked for the National Park Service (NPS), as a park ranger, superintendent and then director of the Alaska Region. A major career accomplishment for Contor came in 1972, when he served as the Secretary General of the Second World Conference on National Parks held in Yellowstone. 600 delegates from 88 nations attended and saw to the establishment of the World Heritage System.

In addition to serving the United States park system, in 1968 Contor served as an advisor to the State of New South Wales, Australia, as it established its own national parks and reserve programs.

Contor dedicated his career to wilderness preservation, wildlife and the outdoors. After retiring from the NPS in 1985, Contor served on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission as well as the Committee on Improving Science and Technology in the NPS. He lives in Port Townsend, Washington, with his wife, Susan.

The new inductees will also be recognized on Saturday, May 13, during the spring commencement ceremony. Read more about the inductees at

Media Contact: 
Jamie Wagner
Director of Communications, University Advancement and Alumni Relations

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, a research and Extension center in Twin Falls, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to more than 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference and Sun Belt Conference. Learn more: