PROVIDENCE, R.I. — December 8, 2000 — Walter A. Crocker, dean of URI’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education for the past 16 years, will retire this January.
“In many ways and to many students, his leaving is like losing a father. He made the college a home away from home. He was the handsome, gray-haired man holding the door wide open for new students on their first day (or night) of class,” says Joanne DiBello, director of the College’s marketing and external affairs.
A former Peace Corps volunteer, Crocker opened many other doors — ones to self-respect, confidence, and empowerment.
A Johnston resident, Crocker came to URI’s urban college from Rhode Island College where he had worked for 14 years as dean of continuing education and community service.
“He leaves a legacy of innovation and leadership,” says M. Beverly Swan, URI’s provost and vice president of academic affairs. “Walter has broadened and enhanced the activities of the college.
“In addition, he has truly contributed to URI’s strong presence in Providence. During his tenure as dean, Walter oversaw the challenging move of the College from its site on Promenade Street to its current location in the renovated Shepard’s building on 80 Washington St.”
Crocker’s accomplishments include starting the college’s chapter of the Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society, an honor society for continuing education students; creating the Student Government Board, and initiating L.E.A.P., a program for adult minority recruitment.
Crocker also started distance learning at URI, initiated a Special Programs unit for businesses and spearheaded URI overseas programs. He created a Study Skills Center with free math, computer, language and writing tutors. In addition, he founded an active Community Advisory Board for the College, initiated Grand Information Sessions to spur recruitment, conducted 25 live TV Town Meetings, and started ALTER, a senior citizens academy.
In addition, he kicked off a major donor/gift campaign which has raised $8 million to date. This past year alone, Crocker awarded scholarships totaling $300,000 to URI-ASFCCE students. And that’s only the beginning of his accomplishments.
Upon his retirement, we asked the dean to share some of his thoughts:
What are your proudest achievements?
A: I can think of three.
- On the administrative level, I think I have solidified support and respect for the College in the minds of Kingston personnel and the external communities. The College is now a major player.
- I’m even more pleased with individual success stories of adult students.
- I think I have nurtured a friendly ambiance about the placethat the College is a nice place to learn and a nice place to work.
Q: You’re always opening doors and welcoming students as the semester begins. Do you have a specific philosophy?
A: I think a bureauacy, and that’s what any institution is, should do everything it can to help its clients achieve their goals. It should not be impersonal, remote, or aloof. There should be mutual respect. Students should know that we are rooting for them. They are experts in their own areas and they’re asking us to share some of our expertise.
Q: What advice do you have for your successor?
A: Get to know the students. Keep an open door. Ask for suggestions and criticisms constantly. Every major change at this college has been student originated whether it was lockers, scheduling Saturday classes, or the Student Government Board. If you survey them, you better do what is being asked. Otherwise, they won’t answer the next survey.
Q: What are your plans now?
A: I’m going to relax for awhile. I’m 62. My wife, Terri, and I are both healthy. We have 10 grandkids. For now, I’m going to say “no” to everythingno teaching, no boards, no committees. I want the luxury of becoming bored. This job is almost too big for one person. You have to have an understanding spouse. There are cultural, academic, and ceremonial demands often seven days a week. As dean you are sending a message if you don’t go.
Q: What is the college going to do without you?
A: People were asking that same question to Tom Pezzullo when I came in 1984. I think my style and CCE were a good match when I arrived. Today, the college has more sophisticated needs so it’s quite fitting that my successor will be different than me.