Kyle Chilton | Posted: 31 Aug 2020 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

Former Cougar Chris Crowe named Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer

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Graphic congratulating Chris Crowe on winning the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award

Former Cougar football player and current BYU professor Chris Crowe was named the recipient of the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award at BYU’s annual University Conference.

The Maeser Award is BYU’s most prestigious faculty award and is provided through the generosity of the Karl G. Maeser Scholarship Society. The award is given to a BYU professor who has demonstrated clear superiority in both scholarship and teaching.

“It’s really humbling,” Crowe said of the recognition. “I’ve been here since 1993 and seen a lot of incredibly brilliantly people do amazing things all across campus. How do you choose one person for an award? There are a lot of people that deserve an award like this one so I just feel lucky. I’m grateful to have it.”

Crowe played offensive tackle at BYU for the late LaVell Edwards from 1972 to 1975. During that time, BYU football began to establish its reputation as an innovative and powerful offensive machine. In 1974, Crowe helped the Cougars finish 7-4-1 overall, win Edwards’ first WAC championship and earn a trip to the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State, BYU’s first bowl game. He mentioned that playing for Edwards was a foundational experience.

“He had that optimism in the face of adversity and faith in us that we could come together as a team,” Crowe said. “As a player, being around him, the guys on the team, the kind of people that he recruited, the coaches he had, it really was formational for me to be a better person, to face adversity and work through life.

“He knew everybody’s name. I remember once he had us lined up on the sideline in the stadium and he introduced each one of us to the boosters, and not just by our names, but where we were from and something about us. It blew me away. And years later, when I’d run into him, he knew me and he’d ask me about my wife and my parents. Even in the last years of his life, he had this incredible recollection of me as a person, not just as some player that he coached. That was something that I always admired about him.”

After graduating from BYU in 1976 with a degree in English, Crowe earned his master’s (1980) and doctoral degrees (1986) in English education at Arizona State University while also teaching high school English. Crowe took his first university teaching position at Himeji Dokko University in Japan. He then taught at BYU-Hawaii – a place he and his family never envisioned leaving – before accepting a position at BYU in 1993. As nearly 20 years had passed between playing football and completing his undergraduate education and then returning as a professor, Crowe marveled at how much the university had grown during that time.

“John Tait’s (former Cougar and NFL offensive lineman) freshman year was my first year on the faculty (1993),” Crowe said. “I was an offensive lineman and I thought, ‘This is the difference between now and then.’ Tait as a freshman was about 295 (pounds) with no body fat, and my freshman year as an offensive lineman I was 210 and the biggest guys were 240, back in those days. I thought, ‘This shows how BYU has grown.’ Even academically, Tait was a great student. Athletically and academically the institution had changed in those 20 years from someone like me getting in on a scholarship to someone like Tait getting in on a scholarship.”

As a professor of English, Crowe teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in young adult literature, English education and creative writing and has served on more than 70 thesis committees. Throughout his career, Crowe has published three award-winning novels, 13 books, 85 articles and 19 book chapters. One of those books is Mississippi Trial, 1955, an award-winning historical fiction novel about the abduction and murder of African-American teenager Emmett Till. He said he sees comparisons between the impact of Till’s murder to what has happened since the death of George Floyd in May of this year.

“I wish the book were no longer relevant, but it is because people are still getting murder for really no reason,” Crowe said. “I think the parallel that struck me is when Emmett Till was murder in ’55, the movement was still trying to get its footing. His mom had an open viewing for three days. He had been beaten and tortured and he didn’t look recognizable. Thousands of people walked by and photographs were taken of his corpse. The parallel to that photo and the impact it had is watching George Floyd get killed. It really shook people up. That kind of visual, the impact of an image like that photograph or the video footage of George Floyd being killed, really rolled things out and got people moving.”

Crowe has spoken to thousands of students around the country about the impact of the Till case on the civil rights movement.

In addition to his recent distinction as the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, Crowe has received a variety of other BYU award, including: the Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award, the Nan Osmond Grass Professorship in English and a Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Arts Award.

Crowe married his high school sweetheart Elizabeth in 1973 and they have four children and eight grandchildren.

Crowe Highlights

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