Joe Crowley became a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1966 and department chairman in 1976. He was president of UNR from 1978 to 2000 and came back to serve as an interim president from December 2005 to July 2006. He is author of Democrats, Delegates and Politics In Nevada on his experience as an antiwar delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention.
What’s retirement like?
Retirement’s good, Dennis, because I get to do only what I want to do, and I want to do a lot, but it’s all fun, and it’s a no-strain, lots-of-rewards kind of life.
Are you writing?
I’m writing poetry, a long pent-up ambition of mine, to learn more how to do it. I was an old doggerel writer for decades and had the good sense not to share it with anybody, or most of it. And then I decided, after my fourth retirement looked like it was going to stick, that I would ask Gailmarie Pahmeier if I might enter her poetry workshop, and I did, three years ago. So I’ve been learning and having a good time publishing a little bit here and there. No great ambitions about publication, you know. I don’t need to worry about that. But it’s very rewarding. And then, family things and a non-profit board here and there.
Anything in the political science field you’re writing? People may have forgotten that you were a political scientist before you were an administrator.
No. I thought seriously about a follow-up book to the one I wrote back in the ’90s, which was a kind of history of the academic presidency [No Equal in the World, 1994], but I gave that up. I had all the research done, but I just didn’t—wasn’t ready for the discipline. I am, courtesy of the Oral History Program, writing a memoir. I did two years worth of interviews with Tom King [former Oral History Program director] and then he asked me would I turn it into a memoir. There is some thought that it could sell a couple of copies and make some money for the program.
I wouldn’t think you’d need to do an oral history as opposed to simply writing an autobiography.
Well, I hadn’t intended to do that. On the one hand, it seems terribly presumptuous—these former-felon, 15-minutes-of-fame people writing their autobiographies [laughs] and making money. I don’t know why people buy those things. So I’m doing it because it’s kind of fun, and it’s not a lot of work. But it’s a good challenge for me. So that is supposed to be completed by, I think, next August. It keeps the creative juices flowing.
Are you teaching?
I once in a while teach a course, yes. It’s the third course in the sequence of the core curriculum, and it’s basically American constitutional history.
Given that you spent half your life at UNR, it must be difficult to watch what is now happening.
Difficult, it certainly is. I had the good fortune to be the president during that time. There were just so many people who contributed so much to the advancement of the institution over the last couple of decades of the 20th century and the first one in this century, and the work that they put in, the risks that they took, the innovations they made, the grief that they experienced and the tremendous sense of reward when something good happened—I mean, that’s a much more important and involving and saddening feeling for me, to think about all that effort by all those people that’s gone down the drain and how difficult it will be to recapture some of that territory.