His Greatest Achievement: Dick Crawford

July 16, 2014

Joan and Dick Crawford

by Alexa Carson

Dick Crawford has a lifetime of stories. He’s served as mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma, befriended Woody Hayes and Jack Nicklaus, and once even attended former President Ronald Reagan’s 76th birthday party as a guest of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. But the story Dick loves to tell most of all is that of his beloved late wife, Joan, who shared the many high points of his life.

“With all the things that have come to me, being mayor, being head of a company, all of it, still the greatest thing that ever happened to me is Joan,” Dick said.

Dick recently established a scholarship in the College of Social Work, both to honor her memory and lifelong dedication to philanthropy, but also to give back to the place where their story began.        

Dick and Joan first met on campus in 1954 while Dick was working on his degree in business administration and Joan in education. Dick said on that first date he knew “right then that she was it.” They married in 1956, which Dick said he considers his greatest achievement.

As their relationship grew, they each began to thrive in their respective careers as well. Dick took on many roles, from corporate relations at Oral Roberts University to his appointment on the National Labor Relations Board. Eventually, he was asked to run for mayor of Tulsa. He consulted Woody Hayes, whom he considered a father figure, for advice. Hayes insisted he go for it.

“I had no choice then, because I couldn’t face Woody if I backed off,” Dick said.

The opinion that mattered most though was Joan’s, and that of their two children, Pam and Doug. With their support, Dick ran and was elected in ’86.  

While in Tulsa, Joan worked with a local school system to create the “Home Bound Program,” which allowed her to visit homes or hospital rooms and teach children who were unable to attend school for various physical or psychological reasons. Dick said Joan had two rules for her students: every lesson started with a hug, and no one was allowed to quit.

“She was a special human being if there ever was one…she never knew a child who couldn’t be helped,” Dick said.

They eventually ended up back in Columbus doing volunteer work for multiple organizations including Ohio State, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Worthington Schools, where Joan received a Volunteer of the Year Award. They both were President’s Club donors and members of the Alumni Association.

Above all, Dick said work was never as important as his family. He credits their long lasting marriage to two things: unconditional love and mutual respect.

“Every day when I’d leave home, even the rare times we were disagreeing on something, I’d say ‘honey, I love you,’ and give her a hug and a kiss,” he said. “We never parted without that.”

After Joan passed away two years ago, Dick and his children wanted to find a way to honor her. Dick said Joan had attended an honors day for the College of Social Work at the Faculty Club as a guest of the dean. She had always admired the students for their line of work and their passion for helping others that matched her own. 

“She got her degrees from the College of Education (and Human Ecology), but that doesn’t tell her story and what she did with her degrees.” he said. “The real story is told by what these kids are doing.”

The scholarship will be awarded to a student in the school, with preference for those working in child welfare or who have a history of community service.

Dick said he misses Joan every day, but takes comfort in the many memories they shared since that fateful day in ’54 at Ohio State.

“When I look back on my marriage, do I have any regrets? None,” he said. “And I am very grateful for that.”

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