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Dean reflects on career

| Sunday, September 14, 2014

Two weeks ago, the University of Notre Dame publicly announced their appointment of Gregory P. Crawford, Dean of the College of Science, to the position of associate provost and vice president of the University, for the purpose of expanding the Notre Dame vision to California.

Crawford, who grew up in Ohio, received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Kent State University. After working in a naval research lab as a civilian, he relocated to California for a position at Xerox before transferring to Brown University.

“[I worked] at Brown for 13 years and then I started here [at Notre Dame] in 2008 as Dean, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.

Crawford said President Simmons at Brown University and President Fr. John Jenkins at Notre Dame are both phenomenal leaders who helped him see the potential of his own career.

“[I] was inspired by them in terms of then wanting to do leadership in admission because they both made some hard decisions, and they stuck with them,” he said. “I think people really appreciated that they held by their principles and they got some things done that I don’t think anybody else could have gotten done.”

In addition to the faculty leaders, Crawford said it’s the students who keep him going day to day.

“[I am inspired by] the undergraduates and everything that they do in terms of where they go in the summer from Guatemala to Chile and everywhere else in the world…” he said. “I think that any leader at Notre Dame, when they see what the students are doing, are kind of in awe.”

Upon first arriving at Notre Dame, Crawford said he became passionate about his work with rare diseases. Growing up in a Catholic family, Crawford said he wanted to play for Coach Ara Parseghian, and although he never played football at Notre Dame, through his work in finding a solution for Niemann-Pick Type C, he plays on Parseghian’s team now in a very different way than he ever dreamed.

“I knew I was coming in as a physicist and was going to oversee this and then what happened ultimately was I met them, Cindy and Mike Parseghian and coach,” he said. “I just became passionate that we needed to get a solution for Niemann-Pick. It was so close to the Notre Dame family.”

This mission to find a cure for Niemann-Pick is just one of the many aspirations Notre Dame holds dear. Crawford said the University’s history of leaders is evidence of the multitude of visions Notre Dame seeks to fulfill.

“You look back on the history of Notre Dame, and they’re not short of big visions,” he said.

It was Father Sorin’s big vision to build in the “frozen tundra of Indiana” and create a University, Crawford said. Father Nieuwland had the vision to create synthesized rubber.

“And then you had Father Hesburgh who was part of all kinds of big visions with the federal government, working with presidents all throughout his career and being so respected by governments in terms of what Notre Dame brings and in terms of perspective to decision making at that high level for the nation,” he said.

Now Father Jenkins is working on his big vision to grow the University, Crawford said, through an expansion in research, the new school of global affairs and the new California effort. The California plan, will consist of establishing a larger Notre Dame presence through internships and career opportunities for undergraduates, recruiting top high school students and establishing online classes.

“I say that you look at all these visions [and] when you kind of add them up I just feel somehow that this California effort is going to be part of one of those in a look back ten years from now, or one or two decades, that Notre Dame was going to really go and plant their flag at another location in the U.S.,” he said.

Crawford said it is important for the University to bring its core values and virtues out west to “a technology hub of the world.” He said all these visions have taught him to really think big.

“When you just look at what’s going on out there in terms of technology, biotechnology, investment, it was very important sort of on the research side of things,” he said. “When you look out there in terms of development, there [are] a lot of people that resonate with our mission. We think we can engage them through that.”

Although Crawford will relocate to California next year, he said he is still very much so a part of the Notre Dame family.

“I think the world needs Notre Dame students, and they continue to inspire people,” he said. “I don’t think sometimes students realize how much of an impact they have on faculty and deans and so forth, but they truly do so keep up the great work.

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About Carolyn Hutyra

Carolyn Hutyra serves as an Assistant News Editor for The Observer. She is a senior from Arlington Heights, Illinois studying Biology and Anthropology.

Contact Carolyn