In his nearly 40 years at Normandale Community College, Rex Gaskill always kept the entire school in mind.
“Rex was always looking for win-win solutions — things that would benefit and support the college, the faculty, the staff, the community and students. He was approachable, listened, made fair decisions and was kind to everyone he encountered,” said Teri Avis Wichman, who was the Bloomington college’s dean of business, social sciences and the library before retiring. “And all of that with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes.”
Gaskill, a Kansas native who became a longtime Minneapolis resident, arrived at Normandale in 1973. During his tenure, he served a number of roles before retiring in 2012.
“He was one of the first people I met on campus when I was hired as faculty, making a point to come meet me and welcome me,” Avis Wichman said. “We taught together, we were deans together, and he was my interim replacement when I retired from Normandale. He was always willing to help out however he could. I could not have asked for a better colleague and friend.”
Gaskill, of Minneapolis, died April 10. He was 77.
Gaskill was born Dec. 21, 1942, in Hutchinson, Kan., and raised by his grandparents. After high school, he attended Hutchinson Community College and earned an associate’s degree. He then earned a bachelor’s in communication from Fort Hays (Kan.) State and a master’s in communications from the University of Nebraska. He also took coursework toward a doctorate at the University of Minnesota.
He taught at several colleges and universities before joining the staff at Normandale as a faculty member in speech communication and the director of forensics.
He coached many national champions and award winners in forensics and was awarded Phi Rho Pi’s Distinguished Service Award and the Outstanding Contribution to Speech and Theatre by the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota, which oversees communication and theater teachers and professors in the state.
In addition to his position at Normandale, he was active in the Minnesota Community College Faculty Association and the National Communication Association. He served as chairman of the Community College section of the National Communication Association. In 1997, he received the Community College Outstanding Educator Award.
In 1999, he became the school’s dean of liberal arts. He retired from that position in 2005 and resumed teaching part time. In 2010, he became the school’s interim dean of business, social sciences and the library. He kept teaching until 2012.
In retirement, he volunteered in the Normandale Foundation office and served on the foundation’s board.
“Rex was truly a giant at Normandale, in the Minnesota community college system and in many areas related to speech and collegiate communication and debate in the state and nationally,” retired Normandale professor Mike Wartman said.
Gaskill had a lifelong interest in travel and volunteered at First Universalist Church and in the travelers assistance program at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
He was also an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, serving in a variety of roles.
Survivors include his husband, Paul Strandberg, brothers Marvin Gaskill and Terry Gaskill, and several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be scheduled later.