We often hear about people with "vision.” We also hear occasional "small world” stories. The two come together in an astounding way in the case of Edith Crawley, namesake of the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center’s CARE/Crawley Building and the Edith J. Crawley Vision Science Research Laboratory.
In the decades after she received her two degrees (A&S ’30, Law ’32) from UC, Crawley didn’t strike many people as a significant future donor, but a series of interesting circumstances coalesced over the years. By the 1950s she was a childless Indiana widow who moved from Greensburg to Muncie to make a career in education as a teacher and counselor in the Muncie Community Schools. While she was an advisor at Muncie Central High School, one of her students was a tall young man named Greg Williams, whose path she was destined to cross again, albeit posthumously.
Over the years, she maintained a modest lifestyle, invested wisely, and purchased surrounding farmland as she was able, eventually holding thousands of acres in the same area where Williams worked as a farmhand and later a deputy sheriff. She also began to have eye problems as she aged, leading to an unsuccessful operation in Indianapolis. Around that time, in the 1980s, she met a UC Foundation representative named Art Osmond, who helped Crawley arrange to have the surgery redone at the hospital at her alma mater.
This time, her vision problems were reversed. The satisfying experience—which included accepting Osmond’s gracious invitation to stay with his family when she came to Cincinnati from Muncie for recuperation and periodic follow-up appointments—made her feel like a welcomed and cherished alumna as well. And she began to see UC differently, including a new philanthropic interest in the department of ophthalmology. After Osmond left the university, Crawley became friends with the UC Foundation’s Mary Sue Cheeseman. Still, she made no gifts to the university during her remaining years, so her ability and intention to make a major gift was a mystery until her death in December 2003 at age 95.
When the representative of her estate, long-time friend Greg Hitchens, sifted through the papers she left behind, Edith Crawley’s vision became clear to all. Almost the entire estate—more than $12 million after the sale of her land holdings—was bequeathed to UC. Half went to create an eye disease research center within UC’s planned Center for Academic and Research Excellence, and half established the Edith J. Crawley Memorial Scholars Program to support medical students, fellows, residents and other medical professionals engaged in eye research.
"It’s an incredible gift, but so fitting of Edith because her passion truly was education,” said Hitchens.
When Gregory H. Williams became UC president in 2009, he began the process of getting acquainted with the multi-faceted university he was charged to lead—and it yielded a most pleasant and nostalgic surprise.
"I was delighted to learn that my high school guidance counselor had made a major donation to the University of Cincinnati, and that the CARE/Crawley Building was named after her,” Williams said. "I remember her from my high school days, and that she was in charge of counseling services for over 2,000 high school students.”
Williams is thrilled to share with Edith Crawley the vision of education as life’s most transformative power, and happy that their lives intersected again in such a meaningful way.
"I imagine her love of learning and welfare for students must have emerged from her great academic training at UC, as well as her chance to help create successful futures for literally thousands of students at Muncie Central High School,” he said.
*This story was written and submitted by Keith Stichtenoth, associate director of communiciations for the UC Foundation.