Services set Friday for SU’s Dr. Norman Crawford


When Dr. Norman Crawford was named president of Salisbury State College, in 1970, only three African-American students were enrolled.

Ten years later, there were 430.

Crawford, 85, who lived in Ocean Pines, who died May 12, is being remembered for that impressive growth, and integration at the college, now Salisbury University.

“Within his inaugural year as president, he hired the university’s first African-American faculty member, Dr. A.K. Talbot of the sociology department. Several years later, he welcomed SU’s first African-American fraternity, Omega Psi Phi,” said SU President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach, who greatly admired Crawford.

“During his presidency, he took a personal interest in the lives of African-American student leaders on campus, hosting weekly meetings to discuss any problems they may have encountered,” Dudley-Eshbach added.

Crawford considered “the harmonious desegregation of the state college” his proudest accomplishment.

The university’s honors program, winter academic term, campus radio station and The Flyer student newspaper were all established under his presidency. He oversaw the creation of the Salisbury University Foundation Inc., which has played a pivotal role in SU’s development as A Maryland University of National Distinction, according to information provided by the university.

Several buildings opened during his tenure, including the first co-ed residence, Choptank Hall; Chester and Chesapeake residence halls; 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.

A native of Newark, N.J., Crawford is survived by his wife of 60 years, Garnette Bell Crawford.

They had two daughters, Sally Jean Crawford of West Ocean City and Ellen Crawford Price of Charlotte, N.C., and two cats. His funeral will be at 3 p.m. Friday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Berlin.

In his obituary, his family wrote that Crawford, a life-long educator, “gained a sense of values through scouting, ultimately achieving Eagle Scout, and a love of sports through his local YMCA.”

A graduate of Rutgers University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in education and master’s degree in education, he went on to achieve a doctorate in higher education at Northwestern University.

After serving in the U.S. Navy for four years during the Korean war, Crawford taught at the naval school in Newport, R.I., where he met his wife.

After being discharged from the military, he accepted his first job, at Rutgers University.

He also worked for the National Merit Scholarship Corp. in Evanston, Ill.; the Division of Higher Education of the U.S. Office of Health, Education and Welfare; and the University of Delaware.

He was 39 when he was named president of Salisbury University.

At the time, student enrollment was less than 1,000 and a state study recommended the school be closed and reopened as a community college, his family wrote in his obituary.

But under Crawford’s leadership, the obituary states, “the campus grew exponentially and in 1976 was the nation’s second-fastest growing state college or university, according to the Associated Press.”

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

After he retired, he and his wife returned to the Eastern Shore.

In 2006, he was honored with the inaugural Spirit of Salisbury University Award. A few weeks before he died, at the opening of SU’s new Sea Gull Stadium, he was recognized for his vision in many areas of the student experience.

Dudley-Eshbach recalled meeting Crawford when she was named president in 2000, after his retirement.

“He was one of the most enthusiastic Sea Gull fans I ever met. The varsity football, softball, swimming, cross country, tennis and lacrosse programs were established and the East Campus athletic fields were built during his tenure.

“After retirement, he continued to take pride in the university and to maintain a strong interest in the campus until his passing,” she said.

“He will be greatly missed.”

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