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A friend remembers Harry Crewson
University archivist Bill Kimok elaborates on interviews he conducted in 1997 and 1998 with the University's 17th president

Harry Crewson

Listen to Harry Crewson describe to oral historian Bill Kimok how his study of Eastern religions during his undergraduate years at the College of Wooster (Ohio) influenced his lifelong philosophies on interacting with people.

MP3 Audio Clip

In his memory

Memorial contributions may be made to the Harry B. Crewson Freshman Scholarship Fund by calling 1-800-592-FUND.

By Bill Kimok

So, there we sat, Harry and I, in the soft, comfortable chairs in the living room of the Claire Ping Cottage on that fall morning in 1997. It was warmer than usual for that time of day during October in Athens, and we had opened the downstairs windows to let the slight breeze run its course. Consequently what passes in Athens for rush-hour street clamor intruded our cozy space unfiltered; car engines revved, tires squealed and doors slammed as employees and students, arriving in the nick of time for work or for 8 a.m. classes, jockeyed frantically for the few metered spots remaining along University Terrace. On the coffee table between us lay the tools of my temporary trade as an oral historian: a recorder, a microphone and a half-dozen still-wrapped, 60-minute audiocassettes. But we had decided to delay the interview and let the equipment sit idle for a few minutes until the din outside had quieted. In the meantime, I sat fiddling with my well-prepared notes for the fourth or fifth time that morning and making small talk with Harry about how no matter what else changes at the University, fall in Athens is probably the most pleasant of the seasons.

The hardest part of my work was done, anyway. I had spent the last two months getting to know the great man by sneezing my way through hundreds of dusty documents scattered throughout dozens of archival boxes and by rubbing my eyes over scores of reels of microfilmed newspapers. At dinner the night before, just a few minutes after I had met Harry for the first time, I had heard his friends re-tell all the legends from memory: the founding of the University Employees' Credit Union, the successful negotiation of a nine-day union strike, the establishment of the medical college at the University that would bring badly needed medicine to Southeastern Ohio, and so forth. So, I thought all that was left for me was to follow my script and ask the questions to which I thought I already knew most of the answers. As it turned out, there was a lot more for me to learn about what made Harry the University and community hero he turned out to be.

So, around 10 minutes after the hour on that first morning, as we began to hear birds outside again, I raised my eyebrows, Harry nodded, I reached for the switch, and our work began. "I was born in 1913," Harry began ...

  • Formative years
  • Politics, philosophies and family life
  • Arrival in Athens
  • The civic leader
  • The presidency/A University leader
  • The public servant
  • A friend to all

    Bill Kimok, now Ohio University archivist and records manager, was assigned the task of interviewing Harry Crewson for an oral history in 1997.

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