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Remembering Herb Crowder: Founder of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services

By Jennifer Coleman-
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On 24 April 2019, the Darden family suffered a great loss. Herb Crowder, Darden alumnus from the Class of 1966 and founder of The Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services, passed away last week after a prolonged battle with brain cancer.

When I joined Darden in November 2015, I was encouraged by a colleague to travel to Florida to meet Herb, a Darden legend whose vision and tenacity made The Armstrong Center (and my new job) possible. So in February of 2016, I made the trip to Florida, and I am forever grateful that I did. In a few hours that seemed to fly by, I learned all about the history of Alumni Career Services — how it was conceived, formed, funded and fostered. I received countless words of wisdom about Darden and coaching Darden alumni. I even got some unsolicited marital advice, which Herb, having been married to the love of his life, Susan, for over 50 years, was well qualified to deliver. I was inspired by Herb’s military and banking achievements and even more so by his wonderful sense of humor. Herb made a fast and lasting impression on me that day, so it is no surprise that he made a profound impact on Darden and the countless alumni he provided guidance and support.

Following are tributes to Herb from some of the members of the Darden community who knew him best.

Herb Crowder was an indefatigable advocate and innovator for Darden alumni — irrepressible, high energy, of good cheer, willing to talk for hours with alums about their lives and careers. Herb was a great example of world class service for us all. He innovated services, programs, tools, online data and much more for his constituency. Herb used his considerable talents to fund, grow and modernize Alumni Career Services into a model for other schools. He was determined to make it the best in class. Herb did the School and its alumni proud.

We are proud of him and miss him deeply. He left big shoes to fill professionally. I also miss Herb personally. We were co-designers, co-teachers, teammates and business partners. His good humor, partnership, counsel, and love of golf were a big positive in my life and career. Herb enriched the lives of the people around him; he certainly did mine. What sweet, happy memories.

James G. Clawson
Johnson & Higgins Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior, Emeritus

Herb created a “best in class” Alumni Career Services center … from scratch. He figured out what alumni needed most, researched what was available, learned (with depth and gusto) how to deliver it (including how to financially support it) and then he carried it out. And then he became a teacher — to alumni looking for energy in their own careers, to other schools who were trying to serve their own alumni, to mentees (like lucky me) who would work with him and follow him.  Not only did he create what is now the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services at Darden, but he also co-founded the MBA Career Services for Working Professionals, an international peer association. Both organizations continue to thrive today.

More importantly, through his storytelling, humor, problem solving, tough love and caring heart, Herb touched thousands of lives, helping people to find, in his words, “what’s next” and, in so doing, making them happier, more productive people. The interactions with alumni weren’t always easy. He would come into my office and say, “Well, I made another one cry.” But he knew that his job wasn’t to tell people what they wanted to hear, but instead what they needed to hear.

I was fortunate to join Herb on this ACS journey in 2001. He became my coach, my adviser, my mentor, my friend. Herb was one of the most influential people in my life, and I will forever cherish the time I spent with him. He may be gone physically, but his spirit, the lessons he taught and his laughter live on.

Connie Dato English (MBA ’91)
Director, Alumni Career Services (2001–15)

Herb and I became close friends while attending Darden in the mid-1960s. In fact, I believe I was the only classmate who attended his wedding in Chicago during the summer of 1965. We remained friends throughout his career as a banker and, subsequently, as director of Darden’s Alumni Career Services program, which he fostered from its creation.

Susan and Herb were not only avid golfers, but they were also very accomplished at it, having retired to Florida primarily to play golf. I will always remember Herb for his dedication to helping others, his great sense of humor and his ability to see the bright side of any situation.

Bill Goodwin (MBA ’66)

Twenty years ago, I was contemplating a significant career change and someone suggested I reach out to Alumni Career Services. The appointment was approaching, and I was skeptical and having second thoughts. How could a retired guy hanging out at Darden possibly be of any help? I will confess to unwarranted confidence at the time.

Within 10 minutes of starting the call, Herb’s charm, wisdom and insights had convinced me I was going about my search in the completely wrong way. With a delightful combination of genuine caring, shrewd questions and a blunt perspective, he won me over and gave me invaluable direction at a critical point in my career.

Herb’s grace and empathy made his counsel irresistible. He gave me great advice several times over the years, and I am grateful for his guidance. I now find myself giving career advice occasionally, and I hope that I might be half as effective as Herb.

Walt Shill (MBA ’86)

Herb had an uncanny knack for getting right to the heart of the matter. He was direct in a way that could make someone uncomfortable, but he was never off base, never judgmental. He had a ‘tough love’ approach to career coaching. Herb told you what you needed to hear, perhaps not what you wanted to hear, yet he always steered people in the right direction.

Herb was moving into retirement when I joined ACS in 2007, and by then he’d coached countless alumni through every sort of tough career transition. As I grew into the role, especially when alumni brought me particularly thorny career problems, I’d think to myself, “What would Herb say?” I’d take a deep breath and try to capture that same tough-love, seasoned approach.

Herb was a founder. He took the risk, had the vision and pushed Darden to take care of our own, in matters of career both good and difficult. He championed every alum and every career and established a unique practice that thrives today.  I’m honored to be a part of Herb’s legacy.

Marty Speight (MBA ’96)
Career Counselor, Alumni Career Services (2007–present)