Students first.

That was the philosophy of Dr. Vernon O. Crawley during his 21-year career at Moraine Valley Community College. Crawley served as the college’s president from 1993-2014.

From his first day as president to his last, Crawley always asked the question, “How will this benefit our students?”

“Moraine Valley was a great place when I arrived, but there were things that needed to be improved, including repairs to existing buildings and creating permanent structures to replace to temporary ones,” said Crawley. “I saw the potential to make Moraine Valley into the finest community colleges in the nation because our students and community deserved it.”

Under Crawley’s leadership, the college has transformed with the addition of new buildings on its main campus in 2009, including the Student Services Center, Student Union, Moraine Business and Conference Center, and the Gateway Arch. All the temporary structures that once stood when Crawley first arrived are in the distance past.

For Crawley who began his professional career as a scientist, one of the most memorable buildings added was the Dr. Vernon O. Crawley Science Hall, Building C, which houses the college’s science programs.

“It was a surprise and honor for the Board of Trustees to name a building after me,” said Crawley. “I still remember the board taking a vote at the groundbreaking of the new building, and I was completely caught off guard.”

Another distinct honor for Crawley were the accolades he received in 2009. He was named the Marie Y. Martin Chief Executive Officer of the Year by the Association of Community College Trustees, and he received the 2009 Chief Executive Officer of the Year Award for the Midwest region.

“I received an award for being the best community college president in the nation,” said Crawley. “Think about that. It wasn’t one that I earned alone. It was the hard work of all the faculty and staff at Moraine Valley—a distinction we earned together.”

The national award is testament to Crawley’s leadership. From his humble beginnings as a poor boy from Virginia, Crawley rose to become one of the most respected community college leaders in the nation.

“I came from a background where I had to work while I went to school,” said Crawley. “I had to balance life with my education, much like the way Moraine Valley students do.”

In his honor, the Moraine Valley Community College Foundation established an annual scholarship to continue his legacy of helping students succeed despite financial and other challenges.

“Scholarships helped me get to where I was when I was a student,” said Crawley. “I always identified with Moraine Valley students. I hope I can inspire them—they always inspired me.”