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America’s carpenter

Abram, Norm

This Old House Master carpenter Norm Abram.

Daphne B. Noyes for WGBH

This Old House Master carpenter Norm Abram.

Norm Abram may be THE most famous household name out of UMass. So what if he never quite graduated.

The resident carpenter on the popular, long-running PBS television series “This Old House,” Abram began attending UMass as a mechanical engineering major in 1967.

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“As you can imagine, it was a pretty interesting time in history, with the Vietnam War going on,” he says.

And while Abram says he loved the campus and has fond memories of his fraternity brothers — “I joined Pi Lambda Phi,” he says — he didn’t care for the technical side of mechanical engineering.

“Besides, at the time the demand for mechanical engineers wasn’t great, unlike today,” he says.

So Abram switched majors to business, with the idea in the back of his mind of starting his own construction firm, since he had watched his self-employed carpenter father run a successful shop during his childhood.

Abram left school in 1972, just a few credits shy of that degree. After working for a start-up Cambridge construction company, he founded his own company in Boston, got hired to do a small carpentry job at the home of Russell Morash, creator of “This Old House,” and Morash liked Abram’s style. The rest is house-building history.

“My experience on campus was valuable,” he says. “And you could say much of my success started there.”

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