Portrait photo of Norm and Delva Rebin
USask alumni Norm Rebin (BA’59) and Delva Rebin (BA’58) met at the university in 1957. (Photo: supplied)

Alumni Love Story: Looking back on 64 years of marriage

After meeting at USask, graduates Norm Rebin (BA’59) and Delva Rebin (BA’58) wed in 1959 and travelled the world together


The University of Saskatchewan (USask) has always held a special place in the hearts of Norm and Delva Rebin.

The USask campus was where Norm and Delva began their post-secondary studies in the mid-1950s. It was where they enjoyed many new experiences as undergraduate students and developed lifelong friendships with their classmates. It was where Delva honed her interest in mathematics and theoretical physics, and where Norm’s passion grew for political studies and law. It was where they both earned their Bachelor of Arts degrees from the College of Arts and Science—with Delva graduating first, in 1958, and Norm graduating the following year, in 1959.

“It really was the most transforming part of my life,” said Norm, who moved to Saskatoon from a farm in rural Saskatchewan to attend classes at USask.

Despite Norm and Delva’s deep interest in their academic pursuits and their extracurricular activities on campus, one USask experience will always stand out above the rest: The day they met in a Russian class during the 1956/57 academic year. It was a meeting straight out of a romantic comedy; Norm stumbled over Delva’s seat in the crowded classroom and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I looked down at her to basically apologize, and I saw the most beautiful eyes in the world—the high cheekbones, the beautiful eyes, the wonderful posture—and I thought, ‘My god, I think I’ve died (and gone to heaven).’ I fell in love with her instantly,” Norm recalled.

Norm came from a family with many strong, intelligent, independent women, and he was quickly attracted to the same qualities in Delva. Delva wasn’t quite sure if she liked Norm—at least at first—but she eventually fell in love with the energetic student. Their romance continued even when Norm moved away from Saskatoon for a year to attend Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Norm called Delva from Halifax to propose.

What followed from the chance meeting in a USask classroom in 1957 is a love story that has spanned 66 years and is still going strong. The couple married soon after Norm was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Stockholm in Sweden. Delva accompanied him to Sweden, where they were married on Nov. 9, 1959, when Delva was 21 and Norm was 20. At the time, international travel wasn’t as common, and it made more sense to marry in Sweden rather than Saskatchewan. Their wedding day was eventful, to say the least.

“Wedding gifts were fabulous Swedish glass and lots of food prepared by students from a dozen or so countries,” Delva recalled, noting she was accompanied by the Canadian ambassador to Sweden and arrived at the church by limousine. “Norm and our best man took the tram, lost the rings, and got well covered in November mud looking for them.”

The newlyweds then travelled throughout Europe and had many adventures together, including in Russia, where Norm served as the translator. Soon after, Norm began a career as a civil servant at the provincial and federal levels. At the age of 29, he was posted as a diplomat to India, where the couple was greeted by a fellow USask student government colleague, Len Legault (BA’57, LLB’59). While there, Norm co-developed the system that Canada used for decades for immigration, before returning to Ottawa to continue working on it and then editing the 1977 Citizenship Act. Delva, meanwhile, served as a researcher, including as a primary researcher on the Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs—a Canadian government commission that ran from 1969 to 1972. Despite their busy schedules, they always made time for each other.

“Together, we had a small business for several decades in the Ottawa area doing communications training for science types, civil servants, and, of course, politicians. We also worked with leaders in several different countries,” said Delva.

“A lot of the business, though, was Norm’s keynote speaking,” she added. “Wifely pride aside, his colleagues believe he is one of the best speakers out there and he has been enrolled in both the U.S. and Canadian professional speakers’ halls of fame and designated a legend of modern professional speaking.” 

In 1985, USask honoured Norm with an Alumni Award of Achievement. In 2002, Norm and Delva, as a couple, received the Alumni Humanitarian Award from USask. At the time, they were described by the university as “indefatigable crusaders for free, unfettered speech worldwide” who “championed the greater good by advocating cooperation for international peace in an age of destructive conflict.” Prior to receiving the USask honour, their work was recognized through the Canadian Citation for Citizenship, which acknowledged Canadians for outstanding contributions in assisting newcomers to Canada and for actively promoting Canadian citizenship.

Over the years, Norm and Delva served on two government commissions, ran an international leadership institute, and served on volunteer boards doing development work in Latin and Central America, Ukraine, the Caribbean, and Russia. Through the Rebin Family Trust, they developed clean water projects in Central America and provided books and educational materials to people living in Cuba, Ukraine, and Russia. Their family farm in Saskatchewan served as a depot for contributions of small tools for shipment abroad, through the Tools Against Poverty Society (TAPS) program. Delva also volunteered with the USask Alumni Association, serving on the board of directors. And, along with their daughter, Niki, Norm and Delva continue to operate Paws On Your Heart, a non-profit sanctuary for feral and stray cats.

Through life’s ups and downs, Norm and Delva have remained supportive of each other and their children.

“She’s dealt with prime ministers, governors general, premiers, leaders of various movements all over the world—and, frankly, she’s earned nothing but respect and love,” Norm said of Delva.

Together, Norm and Delva raised three children: Nicole (Niki), who left her academic career as a college professor to join them in the family business; Noral, a stockbroker in Ottawa; and Kal, a vice-president for a Canadian airline. Despite a life of adventure that has involved travel all over the world, some things have remained constant in Norm and Delva’s lives: their love for each other and for their family, their love for USask, and their love for Saskatchewan, where they have always returned over the years. Now semi-retired, they continue to live on a Century Family Farm north of Saskatoon that Norm’s grandmother purchased more than 100 years ago with her husband and father-in-law.

Norm and Delva decided to share their decades-long love for this USask article as part of a 2024 university contest called Alumni Love Stories. As part of the contest, USask alumni were invited to submit their love stories to be entered to win a Valentine’s Day-themed prize package from an alumna-owned business in Saskatoon. Delva entered the contest on behalf of her and Norm in celebration of their long and happy union.

“It’s 64 years we’ve been married,” she said.

“I literally can say she is not just the love of my life; she is my life,” said Norm.

In sharing their love story, Delva noted that Norm was often away for work over the years, but he always found ways to let her know that he was thinking of her. For example, Norm began a tradition of leaving love notes for Delva and their three children on Post-it notes placed on mirrors, in cereal boxes, and even in the kitty litter—anywhere that they might look.

Back home on the farm, the love-note tradition continues to this day—but now on paper towels. In the summer, Norm adds small stones to his paper-towel love notes, to jokingly remind Delva of when she used to swing her purse, filled with rocks from her geology class, in Norm’s direction when she became annoyed with him on the USask campus.

When asked about their advice for a long and successful relationship, Norm said it’s important to learn how to compromise.

“The truth of the matter is that Delva not only is invincible but, when she erupts, she is like Mount Vesuvius—and, if you don’t want to be caught in the lava, you learn to compromise,” Norm said. “But I think, more importantly, you have (to become) the best friend of your spouse. My mom used to say, ‘Well, Norm, love is very important. You got to like whomever you marry as well. Because when love stumbles a bit, the like kicks in.’ I can honestly say Delva is my best friend.”

“When it comes right down to it, Norm and I spark in each other the kind of creative ideas that motivate us do the kinds of things that we’ve done all our lives,” added Delva. “We really build on each other, particularly with ideas.”