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29 June 2023

Professor Norma Sybil Rinsler (1927-2023)

We pay tribute to former King's Vice-Principal, Professor Norma Rinsler, who died 10 May 2023 aged 95.

Norma Rinsler

Professor Norma Sybil Rinsler was at King’s for over 30 years, with her professional career ranging from assistant Lecturer in French to Vice-Principal of the institution and became Dean of the University Faculty of Arts (now Faculty of Arts & Humanities) in 1988. Here, her daughter Miriam Rinsler tells us about Norma’s life.


Breaking Glass Ceilings

Norma Rinsler belonged to a generation who paved the way for modern women to be both mothers and successful professionals.

Early on, she balanced a young family with teaching: eventually at King’s College London. At that time, even clearly brilliant academic women were not promoted - it took several years to gain tenure. However, a new head of department brought a rapid rise to Reader, then Professor. Her administrative and personnel skills soon meant that she became vice-principal of the College and then Dean of the University Faculty of Arts.

Her interests were wide. A major achievement was to secure for King’s the archive of the Adam International Review - priceless original artwork and manuscripts by key figures of the 20th C. She sub-edited Modern Poetry in Translation. Her contributions to French culture were recognised when the French Government named Norma Officier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiquies in 1989. She continued translating the cahiers of Paul Valéry well into retirement. Only two days before her final illness, while waiting in the Eye Hospital, she translated a 15th C. poem she remembered, on the appointment letter.

Translation: she loved the right word in the right place, the way a teacher can fade out as the pupil becomes more confident. Translation: a supremely intellectual, but also personal and generous act: the art is to illumine as nearly as possible the meaning of the author - to this one brings one’s whole self, but as invisibly as possible. My mother was a generous, persistent and very skilled teacher. When my father had a stroke at 70 she spent hours with him, day after day, teaching and encouraging him until he could speak and walk again.

Their retirement was often spent in contented holidays in their caravan, at first on the road and later at a site near Banbury. They were avid concert-goers. After my father’s death in 2019 she remained strong and incisive, completing the Times crossword daily and offering her quietly passionate love to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Sharp-minded until the last day, she died peacefully on 10th May, 2023. Alas.



Colleagues in the department remember Professor Rinsler as an admired female professional role model especially during the time that she was at King’s

The thoughts and sympathies of everyone at King’s are with Norma’s family, friends and colleagues.