Follow the Leader

New York Native Raised by Single Dad

Crew, 49, was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., about an hour away from New York City. His mother died of cancer when he was 2, leaving his father to bring up Crew and his two older sisters by himself. "I was poor like a lot of black kids at that point in my life," recalls Crew.

For Crew, the notion that every child can learn is more than a politically correct slogan. When he looks at charts showing an inverse relationship between the ethnic diversity of school populations and academic achievement, the discrepancy hits home.

"I came from what a lot of these children are in now," he says. "While I care about all children, there's a particular emphasis in my heart (on children of color)."

Rudy Crew pull quote

Crew decries the "wash, rinse and spin" model of education in which students are quickly categorized and placed in special programs. Sometimes, expectations are lowered "because they've had a hard life."

"Bullshit!" says Crew. Educators who lower their expectations based on a student's circumstances may have their hearts in the right place, but they are doing more harm than good, he says.

"They don't know how to stop that behavior," says Crew.

Crew's notion of great expectations transcends the classroom. He believes just as passionately in what he calls personal, social and occupational adequacy—turning out truthful, caring and respectful human beings.

"We've shied away from that one. We got timid about it. I think that's a cop out. Children want to know right from wrong."

When Crew visited inner-city schools, students who greeted him with a friendly, "Yo, Chance! Wassup?" found themselves pulled aside for a private conversation about the difference between what's appropriate in the street and what's appropriate elsewhere.

Too often, says Crew, "we let them pass through that moment without telling them there are different rules."

Many of the leadership skills Crew hopes to share with others were passed on to him by his late father, Eugene. "His lessons in that regard have been the way I understand leadership," says Crew. "It's not about ducking and dodging and playing a game. ... It means stand up for something."

Rudy Crew pull quote

Eugene, a former jazz musician who worked as a security guard, instilled a strong sense of personal discipline. "I watch Tiger Woods with his father and it was very much like that for me," says Crew. "He was a firm, stern, no-nonsense person. There were no winds in my life other than him."

Crew says his father taught him that "winning and losing meant something. How you won or lost meant even more."

Crew's father set high expectations—"you might even say cruel expectations"—for young Rudy in everything he did from school to sports. Painful as it may have been, the struggle to meet those expectations equipped Crew for success as an adult and shaped his tough-love approach to education.

"I still believe that what you put in is what you get out," he says.

Crew attended Babson, a small business college outside Boston. He had planned to become a buyer at a men's clothing store, but changed his mind after coaching inner-city children during the summers. He went on to earn a master's in education and a doctorate in school administration, both from the University of Massachusetts.

Go To:  Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5

Home / Current Issue / Archives / Talk Back / Advertising / Columns FAQ / Alumni Website / Search