Norm Tiber was passionate — so passionate that everything he did for Cal Poly’s dance program was voluntary.
“He taught a full curriculum, unpaid, to simply increase the love of dance for students,” dance program director Diana Stanton said about the 77-year-old Theatre and Dance volunteer lecturer, who died on March 28.
Tiber, remembered for his humor, generosity and dance lessons in communities around San Luis Obispo, suffered a sudden death from a pulmonary embolism.
However, his voluntary work at Cal Poly — where he taught intermediate ballroom, tango and international folk dance — will never be forgotten, business administration junior Tiffany Davids said.
“Only a select few of us knew that he chose not to be paid for his work, and I think that really shows a lot about his character,” she said. “He was really invested in all the students and their well-being.”
Originally a psychologist in Southern California, Tiber retired in San Luis Obispo — eventually teaching dance at Cal Poly from 2004 onward with his wife, Anne.
“He was very engaged in learning new dance forms and being with students,” Stanton said.
In addition, Tiber participated in teaching methods classes to help future dancers become educated in social dances. For the past several years, Tiber taught both fall and winter quarter ballroom dance classes for the dance minor.
“He was just a wealth of information,” Stanton said. “I liked to call him the encyclopedia of social dance, because he knew everything about it and took students through this journey of rich, theoretical material on how dance is about people and part of it is social.”
But Tiber isn’t only remembered for his excellence in dance. As a person, he truly cared about the youth of Cal Poly, Stanton said.
“He was in his 70s at the time, and that’s a huge gap between college students, but I know students thought of him as a friend,” she said. “He always made everyone feel like they were the best thing that ever happened to him.”
“Norm was always just such a caring person, always looking for students’ best interest in everything he could to make sure everyone learned as much as possible,” she said. “He had such a warm presence about him and (was) such a knowledgeable person as a teacher.”
Wine and viticulture senior Melissa Emilie Paris, who knew Tiber for the past two years, also worked with him as a student assistant.
“I really admired that he made it super accessible for anyone to dance,” Paris said. “Despite the fact that ballroom dance was difficult for the guys to learn, they were still so excited and I think that was due to Norm and his teaching style.”
Tiber liked to combine his signature teaching style with his gentlemanly, charming personality, Paris said.
“He always relayed ballroom and the social aspect of it to things that were relatable to us — like dating,” she said. “He’d always say it’s similar to if you go to the bar, have a conversation, get to know someone, but you’re dancing … He was so passionate and just wanted everyone to love it as much as he did.”
As of now, no memorial service is scheduled. Tiber’s family is awaiting his ashes to send out to sea at high tide, but no date is determined, Stanton said.
“It’s a huge loss for the dance program,” Stanton said. “He really held up the whole ballroom and social dance aspect of the program, and that’s one of the parts that really makes our program diverse. I don’t know how we’re going to fill that hole — he really was the social dance program.”