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Norman C. Crawford Jr., former president of Salisbury University, dies

Norman C. Crawford Jr., former president of Salisbury University, dies
Norman C. Crawford Jr. was a career educator who served as president of Salisbury University for a decade and is recalled as a champion of diversity. (HANDOUT)

Norman C. Crawford Jr., a career educator who served as president of Salisbury University for a decade and is recalled as a champion of diversity, died May 12 of respiratory failure at Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin on the Eastern Shore.

The longtime Ocean Pines resident was 85.

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"As the fifth president of SU — then known as Salisbury State College — from 1970 to 1980, he helped lay the foundation for many of the successes the campus enjoys today," current Salisbury President Janet Dudley-Eshbach said in a written statement.

"He was a most talented individual who knew the craft of how to serve the university's diverse population," said Clara L. Small, who was hired by Dr. Crawford as the first African-American faculty member of the university's history department. "He was a people person who knew everyone on campus, right on down to the groundskeepers. He understood the work of individuals. I will always cherish my working relationship and friendship with him."

The son of Norman Crawford Crane Sr., a clerk-bookkeeper, and Anna Wares, a homemaker, Norman Crawford Crane Jr. was born and raised in Newark, N.J., where he graduated in 1947 from Barringer High School.

He earned a bachelor's degree in secondary science education in 1951 and a master's degree in guidance and personnel in 1957, both from Rutgers University. In 1966, he earned his doctorate in higher-education administration from Northwestern University.

Dr. Crawford served as a lieutenant in the Navy. He was communications officer aboard the destroyer USS Hawkins from 1951 to 1953, then taught at the Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I., from 1953 to 1955, when he was discharged.

From 1955 to 1956, he was assistant registrar at Rutgers University, then was director of financial aid from 1956 to 1957.

In 1957, Dr. Crawford moved to Evanston, Ill., and became scholarship director at the National Merit Scholarship Corp. From 1962 to 1966, he was a specialist in higher education in the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

He was acting director of examinations for the College Entrance Examination Board in New York City from 1966 to 1967.

He served as director of the summer session at the University of Delaware from 1962 to 1966, and 1967 to 1970. Other positions there included assistant to the provost, vice president for academic affairs, special lecturer and co-director of the graduate program in guidance counseling within the university's College of Education.

He was assistant dean of the University of Delaware's College of Arts and Sciences from 1969 to 1970 — at which time he was named president of Salisbury.

When he went to Salisbury, the student enrollment was under 1,000 and a state study had recommended it be closed and reopened as a community college. Under Dr. Crawford's leadership, the campus grew exponentially and in 1976 was recognized as the nation's fastest-growing state college or university, according to the Associated Press.

He hired the university's first African-American faculty member, A.K. Talbot. When he arrived at Salisbury, there were three African-American students, and by the time he left the presidency in 1980, that number had increased to 430. He also welcomed Omega Psi Phi, the first African-American fraternity, to campus and instituted a weekly meeting for African-American students to discuss problems they encountered.

Dr. Crawford initiated the school's winter term, the campus radio station and The Flyer, the student newspaper. He changed the physical landscape of the campus with erection of new buildings, including the campus' first coed residence hall and Maggs Physical Activities Center. He also established the Great Hall Holloway Hall as the original home for the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.

A sports fan, he helped establish Sea Gull varsity football, softball, swimming, cross country, tennis and lacrosse programs, and developed the East Campus athletic fields.

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"Dr. Crawford tried to foster a congenial work environment, which made it easier in preparing students for a global society. His message was if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere," said Dr. Small, a Salisbury resident.

The Evening Sun reported that in 1980, "after three years of mounting financial difficulties," Dr. Crawford was forced by the school's board of trustees to step down.

Reflecting upon his career at Salisbury, Dr. Crawford once said that "the harmonious desegregation of the state college" was his proudest accomplishment.

After leaving Salisbury, he served as president of Drury University in Springfield, Mo., and then director of special projects for Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown. Other posts included vice president of operations of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in Washington; interim president of the University of Maine in Farmington; and senior associate in the office of the chancellor of the University of Maine System in Augusta.

He ended his career as vice president for public affairs at Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J.

He retired in 1991, and he and his wife, the former Garnette Bell, settled in Ocean Pines.

Dr. Crawford was presented the inaugural Spirit of Salisbury University Award in 2006. Dr. Dudley-Eshbach called the award "a fitting honor: For many, Norm Crawford was a living embodiment of SU, and we will miss him greatly."

A few weeks before his death, he was recognized for his achievements at the opening of the university's new Sea Gull Stadium.

He was an avid golfer, Sea Gull sports fan and enjoyed reading.

Dr. Crawford was an active communicant and former vestryman of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 3 Church St., Berlin, where services will be held at 3 p.m. Friday.

In addition to his wife of 60 years, he is survived by two daughters, Sally Crawford of West Ocean City and Ellen Price of Charlotte, N.C.; and a grandson.

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