Former Salisbury University President Dies at 85 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Former Salisbury University President Dies at 85

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Dr. Norman Crawford (Photo: Salisbury University) Dr. Norman Crawford (Photo: Salisbury University)
Fifth Salisbury University President Dr. Norman Crawford is shown with current SU President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eschbach Fifth Salisbury University President Dr. Norman Crawford is shown with current SU President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eschbach

BERLIN, Md.- The Salisbury University community is mourning the death of its fifth president, Norman Crane Crawford Jr., of Ocean Pines, who died Thursday, May 12. He was 85. 

Crawford, who served as president of SU from 1970-80, was born Oct. 30, 1930 in Newark, N.J.  He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Garnette Bell Crawford, two daughters, Sally Jean Crawford of West Ocean City, and Ellen Crawford Price (Chris) of Charlotte, NC, and two cats.

“I am saddened to learn of the death of Salisbury University President Emeritus Norman Crawford. As the fifth president of SU — then known as Salisbury State College — from 1970-1980, he helped lay the foundation for many of the successes the campus enjoys today," said current SU President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach in a statement.

According to his obituary, Crawford was a life-long educator who gained a sense of values through scouting, ultimately achieving Eagle Scout, and a love of sports through his local YMCA.  He earned his bachelor of science in education and master of education from Rutgers University and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in higher education administration.

Crawford served in the U.S. Navy for four years as a lieutenant during the Korean Conflict, and taught at the Naval school in Newport, RI, where he met Garnette.

After military service, his first job was at Rutgers University, followed by positions with the National Merit Scholarship Corp. in Evanston, IL; the Division of Higher Education of the U.S. Office of Health, Education and Welfare; and the University of Delaware.  At the age of 39, he became Salisbury University president.

He came to SU at a time when student enrollment was under 1,000 and a state study recommended it be closed and reopened as a community college. Instead, under Crawford’s leadership, the campus grew exponentially and in 1976 was the nation’s second-fastest growing state college or university, according to the Associated Press.

Under his stewardship, then Salisbury State College established its honors program, winter academic term, campus radio station and The Flyer student newspaper — traditions that continue. He also oversaw the creation of the Salisbury University Foundation, Inc., which has played a pivotal role in SU’s development. Many buildings opened during his tenure, including the campus’ first co-ed residence hall and Maggs Physical Activities Center. He also established the Great Hall of Holloway Hall as the original home for the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.

Ever an enthusiastic sports fan, he used athletics to bolster enrollment and community support. The varsity football, softball, swimming, cross country, tennis and lacrosse programs were established and the East Campus athletic fields were built during his tenure. His pride in Sea Gull Athletics continued after his retirement.

According to his obituary, Crawford was dedicated to increasing diversity at the institution. Within his inaugural year as president, he hired SU’s first African-American faculty member, Dr. A.K. Talbot of the sociology department. Several years later, he welcomed the campus’s first African-American fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. He was steadfast in his commitment to increasing the school’s African-American student population — which numbered only three when he was named president. By the time of his departure, that number had grown to 430. During his presidency, he took a personal interest in the lives of African-American student leaders, hosting weekly meetings to discuss any problems they may have encountered. He once noted that “the harmonious desegregation of the state college” was his proudest accomplishment.

A member of Lamba Chi Alpha as an undergraduate, he was proud to become an honorary member of Omega Psi Phi.

After leaving Salisbury, he continued his career in executive positions in higher education, at Drury College, MO (president); the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in Washington, D.C.; University of Maine, Farmington (acting president); and Thomas Edison State University (vice president).

Upon retirement, he and wife returned to the Eastern Shore. In 2006, the campus he once saved recognized him with the inaugural Spirit of Salisbury University Award.  A few weeks prior to his death, during the opening of SU’s new Sea Gull Stadium, he was again recognized for his vision in many areas of the student experience.

Active at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Berlin, services are scheduled there at 3 p.m. Friday, May 20, with Father Michael Moyer officiating.   A memorial service at Salisbury University is also being planned for a later date.

Those wishing to remember him may contribute to the Norman Crawford Memorial Fund, in care of the Salisbury University Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 2655, Salisbury, MD 21801.

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