Monday, December 26, 2011

Gamma Kappa chapter of Omega Psi Phi, the first African-American fraternity on Salisbury University campus in 1976

SALISBURY, MD---In 1976, Salisbury University President Norman Crawford welcomed the Gamma Kappa chapter of Omega Psi Phi, the first African-American fraternity on campus.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the fraternity recently honored Crawford for this support, and Salisbury mayor and SU alumnus James Ireton proclaimed Norman Crawford Day in the city. Crawford also received state and county citations, as well as a commemorative gift from the Black Alumni Association, in addition to the Appreciation Award.

“He was instrumental in allowing us to have a charter at [what was then] Salisbury State College,” said Charles Elliott, the chapter’s inaugural president. “He was always there for us. He put the students first and always made himself available to us.”

Crawford said he recognized the need for the Gamma Kappa chapter as he attempted to make African-American students feel more welcomed on campus. Prior to his arrival in 1970, only three of the college’s 965 students were African-American.

That number grew exponentially as he began hiring the institution’s first African-American faculty and administrators, and initiated programs such as weekly meetings with African-American students to discuss problems they might be encountering on campus.

“My goal was to make sure African-American students who came to Salisbury had a positive social and academic experience,” he said, adding that he knew the college’s positive reputation would spread throughout the community. “My proudest accomplishment was the harmonious desegregation of the state college.”

Jerry West congratulates Dr. Norman Crawford

Omega Psi Phi member Jerry West congratulates Dr. Norman Crawford.
“Dr. Crawford was a visionary, a man ahead of his time and a man of purpose and conviction,” said Dr. Clara Small, who was among Crawford’s first faculty hires. “He did not emphasize affirmative action, but looked for talented individuals who knew their craft when he hired faculty and staff to serve a diverse student population. He recognized the worth of all people and the value of a diverse work place, and what could be achieved if there was a concerted effort to reach that goal.”

To know that the students he first supported in Omega Psi Phi some 35 years ago remembered his efforts so fondly was especially poignant.

“It was probably the most meaningful recognition I’ve received,” Crawford said.

A native of Newark, NJ, Crawford served as president of SU until1980. Under his leadership, enrollment more than tripled; new academic, cultural and athletic programs were added; and Greek life was introduced on campus. He returned to the area following his retirement in 1992. He and his wife, Garnette, reside in Ocean Pines and remain involved with the SU community.

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at

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