Eighty-one-year-old graduating senior Joseph Crews looks forward to hanging his Georgia State University diploma on his seven-year-old granddaughter’s bedroom wall after he graduates with his Bachelor of Science in Economics.
“She likes to ask a lot of questions about how I’m doing in school,” says Crews. “I want to give her something to be proud of.” Under Georgia State University’s GSU62 program, he will successfully complete his educational goals; a journey strewn with years of peaks and valleys.
Crews, a native of Amityville, N.Y., thought he was going to be a teacher. After one semester at Adelphi University, he became bored and decided to join the army, where he served two years, including a stint in Europe.
Deciding not to re-enlist, Crews tried college again at Hofstra University. This time, becoming a medical doctor was his goal. “After taking a class in comparative anatomy, I realized the medical field was not for me,”
So he put his higher education goals on hold. Before leaving Amityville, he worked with his uncle in construction and then moved to Miami to work with Sears Roebuck & Company, where he assumed supervisory and management roles in housewares, training and store personnel management. In 1976 Crews left Sears and went on to work for Omni Instruments, where he rebuilt fuel flow transmitters for aircraft. Later he worked at the Miami-Dade Tax Collector’s office, where he retired at age 77.
“I loved the idea of being a tax collector,” says Crews. “I only took the difficult problems. I really liked being involved in an idea and dealing with the problem.”
In his 60s Crews decided to try to give college another try. After earning his associate’s degree in business at Miami-Dade Community College in 1996, he enrolled into Florida International University (FIU) to complete his bachelor’s degree in economics.
“I had two instructors at FIU who really made economics interesting,” says Crews. “I really liked macroeconomics because so much of your life depends on and revolves around it.”
However, he suffered several setbacks on the road to getting his bachelor’s degree, including separate cancer diagnoses.
“I was working full-time and had to go to cancer treatments,” he says. Crews is a two-time cancer survivor. “FIU said I was taking too long to complete my degree, so I left.”
After retiring from the Miami-Dade Tax Collector’s office, Crews decided to move to Atlanta to be closer to his daughter, Kim, a Georgia State University graduate. GSU62 program gave Crews the opportunity and support he needed to finally realize his dream of getting his bachelor’s degree.
Crews has been a favorite in the classroom.
“I have the utmost regard and respect for Mr. Crews,” says Glenwood Ross, who teaches Crews in his Senior Capstone in Economic Policy class. “Here’s a highly motivated person who has a zest for learning and a spirit that is undeterred. He’s the type of student that professors really appreciate and that our millennials should emulate: he arrives early for class, he is prepared, his homework is done on time, he takes advantage of office hours, he never leaves class early, he isn’t on his computer or cell phone during class, he’s attentive, he participates and he never has excuses.
“Yes, our millennials have a lot to learn from Mr. Crews. I’m honored to have him in my class. He is my role model.”
“I like the students at GSU,” says Crews. “I really like when they ask a question about what happened in the 1950s or 1960s. They call it ancient history. I just call it history.”
When asked what advice he would give to more seasoned students about pursuing their education, Crews offers, “One thing we’re not making more of is time. When you get a second chance, you better use and enjoy it.”