On Friday, January 26, Phoenix Rotary 100 honored ASU President Dr. Michael Crow with its annual Career-Community Award of Merit. The award was established to honor someone who is not only stellar in their career, but also stellar in the community. The awardees should exhibit accomplishments similar to that of the late Mayor John Driggs, for whom the award was created. The past awardees have consisted of Sandra Day O’Connor and Jerry Colangelo, with Dr. Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, as our third honoree.

President Allister Adel introduced the award committee—Terry Gilberg, Past President Joe Prewitt, Adam Driggs and herself—who meets and decides on the awardee every year. Allister then handed over the mic to Terry Gilberg, who offered a little background on the award. PP Joe Prewitt handled the Q&A session with Dr. Crow.

Joe’s first question was about how it all started.  Dr. Crow took us back to his childhood, explaining that his dad was in the Navy and that by the time he graduated high school he had moved 21 times and attended 17 different schools. He stated that there were two different events in his lifetime that shaped him to be who he is now. The first event occurred when he was a young boy and his mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Unfortunately, she passed away, but he remembers how the community reached out to help after she had passed, including a local Rotary club. The second event occurred when his family moved to Lexington, Maryland, after his mother passed, and he took on an Eagle Scouts project where he decided to collect enough food for one family for an entire year. He remembers how his father rented a truck to deliver the food, and that they ended up delivering to a family in his town that lived way out in a tar paper shack with dirt floors. He also remembers how one of the kids in that home was a boy he went to school with. Dr. Crow was amazed that we had the ability to send a spaceship into outer space and yet there were people who were living like this in the US. 

Dr. Crow said that these experiences drove him to become a teacher and that he was eventually accepted to a school in Syracuse, New York, where he was able to specialize even further in this field. He graduated and went on to teach at Columbia University, where he began to build up a belief that education should not be a precious thing allocated to a few people, but rather something that is available to everyone.

Joe’s next question to Dr. Crow was why he chose Phoenix. Dr. Crow stated that he had six different offers over a period of time and ended up turning them all down. He said that drove his wife crazy by doing this and she eventually made him write down a list of places he would want to go to, so his job search would be more effective.  He based his list on items such as having certain enterprises available and having an atmosphere that was conducive to movement and change.  Arizona turned up on the top of his list (before Colorado and Washington) so when the position was offered he accepted it. Joe then asked about Dr. Crow’s biggest surprise when coming to Phoenix from New York. Dr. Crow explained that his biggest surprise about Arizona is that it lacks identity compared to other states. He would like to see Arizona become a guiding light for the rest of the country.

Joe concluded the Q&A session by asking Dr. Crow his final question – where do we go from here? Dr. Crow said that his main goal with ASU is to eventually have statistics that show no difference in graduation rates, regardless of the individual’s race, money, background, etc.

Adam Driggs presented the award to Dr. Crow, and President Allister concluded the 5,201st meeting of Phoenix Rotary 100 at 1:30 p.m.

For more information about Phoenix Rotary 100, visit rotary100.org.

Nicole Pudney