|As one of seven children, financial
hardship prevented Norma Petersen from attending college. She
began her professional life as a secretary for the Harney County
district attorney in Burns, Oregon, immediately following high
school. At nineteen, she was stricken with polio. After her
recovery, she moved to Salem where she became a legal secretary.
Two years later she was hired as private secretary to the Chief
Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, Earl C. Latourette.
At the urging of Justice Latourette, Norma applied to Willamette
Law School. She won admittance in 1956 without any prior college,
based on her test scores and the personal recommendation of
Justice Latourette. When Norma began law school, she continued
working full time. In 1962, she graduated with honors, including
winning the schools moot court competition.
Norma met her husband, William G. Paulus, while at law school.
They had been married for forty years when he died in 1999.
Their two children are Elizabeth and William Frederick (Fritz)
Paulus, both graduates of Whitman College.
She was elected to the state legislature in 1970 and served
for six years. In this office she had a direct impact on the
laws affecting women. She sponsored environmental legislation,
civil rights and ethical changes by delving into lobby disclosure
and audit functions, and raised the reliability of departmental
budgets and records. In 1976 she was elected Secretary of
State, the first woman elected to state-wide office in Oregon.
As Secretary of State she instituted Vote-By-Mail, the first
in the nation. She was reelected to serve the maximum two
terms allowed under the Oregon constitution.
Norma was the Republican candidate for governor in 1986,
but lost by a small margin. In 1987, she was appointed to
the Northwest Power Planning Council, an agency created by
Congress to oversee production and distribution of power and
the restoration of salmon in the Columbia River and its tributaries.
She chaired both sections.
In 1990 she was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction
where she led a comprehensive restructuring of Oregons
public school system, spearheading work to set rigorous academic
standards for all students and to increase accountability
with state testing standards. In 1996, U.S. Secretary of Education,
Richard Riley, named her to the National Assessment Governing
Board. A New York Times profile described her work in Oregon
as the most cutting-edge school reform in the country.
Norma is a trustee of both Willamette University in Salem
and the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology
in Beaverton. She is an overseer of Whitman College in Walla
Walla, Washington. She also served as an adjunct professor
of law at Willamette University. She was chairwoman of Oregons
Rhodes Scholar selection committee and an Eagleton Fellow
at Rutgers University. She holds an honorary Doctor of Humane
Letters from Lewis and Clark College, an honorary Doctor of
Letters from Whitman College and an honorary Doctor of Laws
from Linfield College. In 1999 she and her husband received
honorary degrees in public service from Willamette University.
Norma Paulus is now retired, but continues to promote causes
for which she feels concern. She is enthusiastic when she
discusses the progress women have made in the work place,
at all skill levels, in her generation.
In the summer of 2000, the Statesman Journal reported that,
as a chief petitioner, she had submitted to the Secretary
of State petition sheets for abolishing capital punishment
and providing for public financing for state political campaigns.
In December, she was appointed Executive Director of the Oregon
Compiled by Virginia Green
This biographical information was supplied by Norma Paulus.