The catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti claimed the life of Santa Clara Law alumna Ericka Chambers Norman ’98, who was known at SCU for her commitment to social justice, her devotion to her Christian faith, and a relentlessly upbeat approach to life.
Norman, 42, was living those values in Haiti, where she worked for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Board of Inquiry office.
“I wasn’t surprised when she went to work at the U.N.,” said classmate Landon Edmond ’98, who describes Norman as the type of person who was always asking her first-year classmates how they were holding up under the pressure of law school. “The work she wanted to do had to have some meaning to it.”
Previously, Norman had served in Kosovo at the U.N.’s Interim Administration Mission, helping displaced citizens find housing and resources. Prior to that, she also worked for Legal Aid and held a short stint in corporate law, friends and former colleagues said.
Norman graduated from Pomona High School in Los Angeles (where she was senior class president), and received her undergraduate degree in East Asian studies and international law from Smith College. Norman, who went by Ericka Chambers at SCU, met her husband, Liberian-born engineer Alvin Norman while serving in Kosovo. The couple had a daughter Denise, who is now 2, according to her hometown paper. Denise’s birth added to a family that also included Alvin’s two children from a prior union. Published reports said Norman and Denise survived the earthquake.
Law School Assistant Dean Jeanette Leach, with whom Ericka stayed in touch over the years, said Ericka was upbeat and ebullient in most things she tackled. She didn’t learn to drive until she arrived at SCU, Leach recalled, but became “hell on wheels” after getting her license.
“She always had a sunshine-y attitude; she was always smiling,” said Leach. “She seldom let things get her down.”
U.N. colleagues, in a memorial posted on a company website, said Norman “befriended many colleagues from various parts of the world” and “took delight in learning about their home countries, their particular culture and food.”
“She always made an effort to take care of others in the office in ways big and small, whether that meant lending us movies from her extensive DVD collection or making sure that a cab driver whom she befriended drove a number of us home safely during a night of rioting in Kosovo in March 2004,” they wrote.
Norman traveled to Japan, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Thailand, and Dubai, her colleagues recalled, and enjoyed cooking and re-creating dishes from different parts of the world.
Santa Clara Law Dean Donald Polden sent a note to the law school community expressing “our profound sorrow at the loss of this vibrant and engaged lawyer and friend.”
According to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Norman is survived by her husband Alvin, a daughter; her father, Ernest Chambers, and stepmother, Paulette Chambers, of Seattle; and her mother, Barbara Lott, of Seattle.