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Former UNR President Joe Crowley Passes Away


Joe Crowley and his dog Patsy.
Joe Crowley and his dog Patsy. Photo: UNR

Joseph Neil Crowley, former University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) president, passed away Tuesday due to complications of pneumonia for which he was hospitalized earlier this month. He was 84.

Joe Crowley served as UNR’s 13th president from 1978 to 2001 and as president of the NCAA from 1993 to 1995. During his tenure at UNR, the longest for a president in campus history, Crowley oversaw significant increases in growth.

According to UNR, Crowley launched initiatives that included KUNR, a national public radio station; KNPB, a community-owned TV station; a long-term legislative relations strategy; and a federal relations program to help diversify the university’s financial support. Also implemented was a large-scale campus expansion and remodeling plan with significant property acquisitions, which included the Redfield campus in South Reno, along with efforts to increase UNR’s land grant missions.

Other accomplishments credited to Crowley include expanding the medical school, creating a college of health sciences, and establishing the journalism school.

“His extraordinary ability to work with his fellow institution presidents and the Nevada Legislature are a testament to the positive impact he has had on our state’s overall public education system,” a statement from the Nevada System of Higher Education said. “As the university’s longest-serving president, Joe built a remarkable foundation for UNR, and his legacy will continue to positively influence students for generations to come. Our thoughts are with Dr. Crowley’s family and friends. We have all lost a remarkable leader and educator.”

People took to social media to express their condolences.

“My heart goes out to Joe’s family tonight. His UNR family will never forget him and the legacy he has left behind,” said Assemblywoman Amber Joiner.

“My heart was filled with profound sadness when I learned of the passing of Joe Crowley. I was fortunate to consider him a mentor and will always remember his quiet dignity and strength of character,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“His dedication to improving Nevada’s education system and UNR was unmatched. May he rest in peace,” said U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen.

Crowley’s post presidency work included being coordinator of legislative activities for higher education. He also served as UNR’s interim president from 2005 to 2006 and became president of the Sierra Wellness Connection in 2015.

Joe Crowley Student Union. Image: UNR.

In 2007, UNR opened the Joe Crowley Student Union that was named in his honor. The 167,000-square-foot, environmentally-friendly building replaced the Jot Travis Student Union.

Crowley was born in 1933 in Oelwein, Iowa and served four years in the U.S. Air Force. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, a graduate degree from California State University, Fresno, and his doctoral degree from the University of Washington.

Crowley leaves behind wife Joy, four children, and seven grandchildren. All his children are UNR graduates.

Services are pending.

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.




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