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Empowering tomorrow’s leaders: James Crawford III’s commitment to TSU

Written by on May 1, 2024

By: Erin Slaughter

On April 25, Texas Southern University (TSU) announced James Crawford III, a distinguished serviceman and trusted advisor to world leaders, as the sole finalist for its presidency, marking a pivotal moment in the university’s journey toward a new era of leadership.

Following the announcement, Crawford, a retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral with more than 30 years of service and the former president of Felician University stood tall, looking directly into the eyes of the present students, declaring that they were what brought him to TSU.

“You and I meant it. I’m happy to be here. I’ve been asked this question three times, and I mean it when I say I see echoes of myself in this student body,” he said.

Crawford, a native of Charlotte, N.C., brings with him an extensive educational background, including an undergraduate degree from Belmont Abbey College, a Master of Laws in ocean and coastal law from the University of Miami, a Master of Arts in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of North Carolina.

Crawford’s extensive educational background undoubtedly provides a solid foundation, and he talked to students about his vision for TSU as an inclusive and steadfast institution.

“My vision for Texas Southern University is that it will be a place that is enduring, vibrant, inclusive, welcoming, and a place of creativity and learning; that will be fostered by excellence in teaching, scholarships, and research,” he said.

While speaking about fostering a top-tier learning environment, Crawford told students that as the 14th president of TSU, his top priority will be ensuring that their dreams are facilitated to the best of his ability.

“I can look at your face and tell you have big dreams; you know where you want to go, and it’s up to us to help you get there,” he told one student.

Crawford told students that the key to effecting change is through collaboration. Despite serving under six presidents and as the lead military advisor to President George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Crawford emphasized to students that it is their voices that he is now eager to hear.

“I like to sit down and talk with students, have meals with you, and collaborate with you; you have different ideas than mine, you think differently, you come from a different generation, and you see through a different lens than I do, and I want to leverage that difference because there’s goodness in that,” he said.

This commitment resonated with students like Sade Cooper, a sophomore at TSU; she said she is excited about the possibility of working with the new president to improve the campus and TSU’s overall experience.

“I hope our new president at TSU will demonstrate a commitment to genuinely listening and responding to student concerns on crucial matters. It is crucial for our voices to be heard so that we can foster an environment of collaboration that will help us improve as a whole,” she said.

The decision to make Crawford the 14th president of TSU will come after a 21-day public comment period, and if it becomes permanent, he will be passed the torch by Interim President Dr. Mary Sias.

President Sias, a former TSU board member and long-standing educator, has been interim president since June 2023 and is credited with bringing about significant change during her tenure.

Dayja Saures, a graduating law student, said she is grateful for President Sias’ commitment to positive change and has high expectations for the new president.

“I like President Sias, she worked hard to make TSU a reputable institution and one we could be proud to have graduated from; I hope the new president can come in and keep that momentum going,” she said.

Crawford told the students that as the new president, he is committed to keeping that momentum going and to seeing their dreams come true, leaving them one more show of his dedication.

“What brings me here is seeing you turn your dreams into reality. Just for me to be here to see that would bring joy to me,” he said.

Crawford’s commitment to listening, hearing, and actively collaborating with students embodies his vision of TSU as a place where dreams are nurtured and realized. As he prepares to assume the role of TSU’s 14th president, students eagerly anticipate his leadership and hold him to his promise of continued engagement and collaboration. 

“We, the current generation, have a moral responsibility to make the world better for future generations.” -Priscilla Chan.