Ashby Bland Crowder Jr
Jun 29, 1941Feb 22, 2019
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Sat, March 16, 2019
2 : 00 PM – 12 : 00 AM
CROWDER, Ashby Bland, 77, of Richmond, Va., passed away on the morning of February 22, 2019, at St Mary’s Hospital. His parents, Ashby Bland Crowder and Margaret Hughes Crowder, preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Lynn O’Malley Crowder, and his son Ashby Bland Crowder III of Baltimore, Md. Bland was born in 1941, grew up in Richmond, and attended Manchester High School. He worked part time at the Richmond Times-Dispatch as a young man. He was graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 1963. He received his M.A. in English from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his Ph.D. in English from Birkbeck College, University of London, where he wrote on the poetry of Robert Browning. Bland was a college professor all of his life, beginning at Centre College in Kentucky, then Eastern Kentucky University, and spent most of his teaching career at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, where he was Peace Professor of English, American Literature, and the Humanities. He was a respected and beloved teacher who published books on Browning, novelist William Humphrey, and poet Seamus Heaney. His edition of the poetry of John Crowe Ransom is scheduled for publication in 2019. He also contributed to many scholarly journals. Bland loved literature and the lively discussion of art and ideas. He continued to write for years after retirement from teaching. The funeral will be March 16 at 2:00 pm at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 6000 Grove Avenue, Richmond. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Environmental Defense Fund. Bland was a kind and loving man who made richer the lives of all he knew. He loved his family, literature, the beauty of language, and his home state of Virginia.
The influence of this man on me in the short time he was one of my teachers is incalculable. To him, I owe my love of Gothic Revival architecture and most of what I know about Victorian literature and Elizabethan theatre. He was a tall, wiry, energetic man who effused joy in his work. Any time I met with him to talk about a paper or a reading assignment, he always expressed a genuine enthusiasm for what I was thinking and working on. He loved this stuff, and it was hard to avoid catching it when you were in his presence. I remember going to his office once when I took Victorian literature from him to talk about my paper. I told him I was tired of writing the same old critical analysis paper about a poem or a novel, and I was looking for something different to do. He sent me to Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock to study and evaluate the building in terms of the principles of the Victorian architect and critic Augustus Pugin. I spent a day in the cathedral documenting the architectural details and weeks studying the Gothic Revival. It was some of the most fun I had in college.
Godspeed, Dr. Crowder, and thank you.
What a great teacher Dr. Crowder was! I don’t think anyone else ever made Victorian lit so fascinating.
Lynn and Ashby, Brenda and I are very saddened by this news. He was a very special, loving person and I thought of you guys often when reading or doing research. May light perpetual shine upon him. Fess and Brenda Powell
Dr. Crowder was kind, encouraging, and engagingly passionate about his subject matter. His classes solidified my love of English Renaissance and Victorian Literature; his impact led to my consideration of grad school and the possibility of a career as a professor, which seemed so far-fetched back then. I have been an English Renaissance Literature professor for 19 years now.
When I read Browning’s poems, especially, I still hear them in Dr. Crowder’s soft, slow, Southern dialect.
I can recall watching him, mid-lecture, with an expression of puzzlement, pull a white plastic fork out of his blazer pocket from some forgotten picnic, and I have laughed at myself doing similar things in front of a class.
Mostly, I think of this story he told our class, which has stayed with me for 30 years now: “Driving to campus this morning, I stopped at a red light. I looked over at the fellow in the suit and tie, driving a BMW, as I sat there in my Ford, and I thought about our disparate destinations, and how lucky I was to get to come here and talk with you all about Shakespeare today.”
We were the lucky ones.
I was lucky enough to enjoy two semesters of poetry and a semester of Shakespeare under Dr. Crowder’s direction, and they were some of the happiest times this political science major spent as an undergraduate.
This was a college literature professor straight out of central casting. Rumpled and enthusiastic, with a true Old Virginia accent that made me concentrate hard on a poem’s rhythm and meaning. Dr. Crowder loved language and a fine turn of phrase, and I honestly believe few things floated his boat than a racy double entendre.
I taught undergraduate and graduate school courses on the side for many years, and sometimes caught myself unconsciously mimicking his movements at the podium. He had a great move where he’d grab both sides of the lectern while speaking and inquisitively lean to one side to take a question—we always believed he was joyfully riding an invisible motorcycle.
Dr. Crowder meant a lot to me. I wasn’t an English major, but he encouraged me to take as much Lit and Poetry as I could manage—and I did.
To illustrate how attentive he was, a short anecdote. Somewhere in my first couple of years, Dr. Crowder introduced us to the poetry of Seamus Heaney. I loved Heaney immensely, and was thrilled to meet him when he came to our little campus. It was a big deal for me.
Fast forward to my senior year. At our end-of-year awards ceremony, Dr. Crowder announced that I’d won the award for top student in his Shakespeare class. But did he give me the customary award of Shakespeare’s works? Nope.
He gave me a Seamus Heaney book, signed by the English Department faculty. I wasn’t an English major. Far from it. But he remembered me and what I was into. I’m touched by that gesture every time I see that book, and again tonight.
I’m far from the only person impacted by Dr. Crowder’s life. He was beloved, and will be truly missed.
Thanks for it all, Dr. Crowder. I will remember you fondly, always.
Like so many others, I am deeply saddened by Bland’s passing. He was such a guy for sharing a joke. He was so generous. And against all odds he started to get me to appreciate poetry, especially Browning’s. I am so thrilled to read all the fabulous tributes from his former students. A one-off by any standards. Ian King
I am saddened to hear the news of Dr. Crowder’s passing. I was thinking about Dr. Crowder the other day as I straightened my bookshelves and came across my Seamus Heaney Poetry book and another anthology that Dr. Crowder used in class. I could still hear his voice reading aloud to us , “Do I dare to eat a peach?” from T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” pausing to ask us what we thought that meant. He told wonderful stories of his family- how his grandmother refused to remarry because she was afraid that when she got to Heaven she would have two husbands and his preschool aged son explaining how he thought God slept in the sanctuary at his church. I became a teacher. The main thing I learned from Dr. Crowder is that in that spring trimester I could hardly wait to get to his class and be read to. I have been doing that very thing for 30 years, grades K-12. We read poetry today. I learned that learning could be so pleasant. Thank you, Dr. Crowder. Kathy Hodge Class of 1989, Hendrix College
It was such a privilege and honor to count myself among the students of Dr Crowder. I will admit I was a bit intimidated to be stepping in to his upper level English course, the first course of English in my college studies. Never would I have ever guessed that that course would become my favorite of the trimester. Dr. Crowder made poetry and people come alive in our hearts and our minds. His soft spoken, kind hearted conversations left so many lasting memories on me. Thank you so much for sharing him with us, his students. He will live on in our hearts and minds.
I ran into Dr Crowder at the Little Rock Public Library some 20+ years after I’d graduated. He came straight up to me and said “Why Kelly, I almost did not recognize you without your hat.” He was a beautiful man; I am so sad to hear of his passing.
Dr. Crowder was an excellent teacher and an exceptional human being. His was the first class on poetry I took at Hendrix and a major reason I ended up becoming an English – Creative Writing major. My class was filled with students who had all kinds of different interests, but each time we gathered to study poetry with Dr. Crowder, we were all entranced. He was a blessing to so many.
Dr. Crowder was one of the first people to encourage me to articulate some of what was happening in my mind when I read, and any progress I’ve made in writing since Hendrix is due to the way he communicated his interest in what I was trying to say. I wrote a paper for the class he was teaching the first semester after his son was born; he drew an arrow on my page and said “this is where the baby spit up. I’m sure it was not a comment on what you say here.” He taught me to love the poetry of Wallace Stevens. He taught me to love literature, and writing, and college, and him, with all the platonic adoration an undergraduate can have for a prof who listens and tries to understand. Jeanne Griggs, Hendrix College 1982, Writing Center Director at Kenyon College
I loved Dr. Crowder from the first class I had with him. His passion for literature was as unmistakable as that squint he would always do with his eyebrows. Dr. Crowder, thank you for just being the way you were.
Lynn and Ashby,
My heart goes out to you both. I will always treasure my time at Hendrix, and I hope always to be able to hear Bland’s soft, musical, Southern drawl in my memory. I remember fondly his distinctive gait as he made his way across the campus, and in later years, around the neighborhood when we lived not so far from you. Ashby, you were always the best part of EYC at St. Marks. Remembering conversations we had still makes me smile. Much love to you both as you navigate this difficult time. You’re in my prayers. I’m very grateful our paths all ran together as they did.
Grace and peace,
I was very shocked an saddened to read of Bland’s death. I worked with Bland as the Humanities administrative assistant at Hendrix College for many years. I often think back fondly of his time here, remembering the many quirky and entertaining things he did. Bland was such a caring person. the world i is little less bright with his passing.
I had the rare opportunity one year at Hendrix to have Bland as both poetry professor and classmate. Loved that kind, gentle, poised, creative and deeply intelligent human.
I am saddened to hear of the passing of A. B. Crowder. He was one my more challenging and memorable college professors. I especially have fond good memories of him in my literature and creative writing classes. He was a rare one, indeed. My condolences to his family.
Dr. Crowder was a big help to me when I was an insecure freshman, terrified of not being good enough for Hendrix. He encouraged and supported me in a way I’ve never forgotten. He was a sweet, kind man and will no doubt be missed by a great many.
Dr. Crowder—charming, erudite and generous. He was my own Eminent Victorian.
From the days of playing wallyball at Hendrix with Dr. Crowder, while he was dressed in button down shirt, black socks and Birkenstock’s, to subsequently sharing meals at Canon Grill in Little Rock with Bland and Lynn, I enjoyed Bland’s wonderful spirit and lively conversation. I will miss him greatly.
I am saddened to know of Dr Crowder’s passing. I had the privilege of being in his Shakespeare class in my Senior Year. Being an accounting major, and a foreign student (English is not my first language), a lot of my friends told me it was not a good idea to take Dr Crowder’s class as he was known to be a tough teacher. I took that as a personal challenge and I am so glad I did. Shakespeare came alive in his class and his infectious love for the plays we read were so clear. He said that he has read them hundreds of times yet he sees something new each time he reads them.
I will always remember you, Dr Crowder for that wonderful semester in your class and thank you for that “A”. Rest In Peace.. Florence H’ng ‘98
I remember Dr. Crowder, not just as a scholar, but as a man possessed of a laconic and mischievous wit. In my senior year, was taking a course under Dr. Carol West and was desperate for an extension to an essay deadline. I went to Dr. West’s office and caught her just as she was exiting her office. Prone to slightly overdramatic gestures, I dropped to my knees, pleading for an extension. It was at this moment that Dr. Crowder walked out of his office. There I was in front of Dr. West, on my knees with my arms outstretched. She turned to Dr. Crowder and asked, ‘Dr. Crowder, what does Bret do when he wants an extension from you?’ Dr. Crowder drawled politely, ‘Well, I wouldn’t like to say’, and strolled, unperturbed, down the hall.
He will be missed.
My very favorite professor, although I’m pretty confident I was among his worst students. Despite that, he was unfailingly kind to me and I am thankful to have known him for a little while. My condolences.
This is very sad to hear. I think I was in Bland’s first upper-level Victorian literature class, in ’76 I believe it was. He was 34, 35, just staring out. With that accent (was it tidewater Va?), he introduced me to R. Browning, Tennyson, Arnold, the Pre-Raphaelites, Hopkins, Hardy, and gave me a C on my first paper–quite right. I went on to Tennessee, where he and Ken Story studied, and got my doctorate, my thesis on Browning. The last time I saw Bland was in the late ’80s; we went to a Browning conference together, even shared a room, and kept in touch for a while after. He was always so supportive, generous, gentle, wise, funny. I wish I had gotten to spend more time with him in those years after Hendrix. And with Ken and Chuck, too. My condolences to all who loved him.
What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from our sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind; In the primal sympathy Which having been must ever be; In the soothing thoughts that spring Out of human suffering; In the faith that looks through death, In years that bring the philosophic mind.”
In a school and an English department full of unforgettable professors, Dr. Crowder really stood out. That accent, a combination of Virginia Tidewater and a touch of London English, was in turns mesmerizing and amusing and bewildering, sometimes all at once. Some of my most memorable moments as a student happened in his classes.
Once, while we were discussing a dramatic monologue (and darn me, I cannot remember which one), I challenged Dr. Crowder’s assertion that the woman speaking must be alone in the room, noting that she could be talking to her cat, something my mother did all the time.
Dr. Crowder apparently found the notion outrageous and bewildering, promptly responding: “Well, I’ sure she isn’t some kind of cat pervert!”
Another time he brought his son Ashby, maybe 7 years old at the time, to class with him. We had essays due that day and had turned them in at the start of class. Then, as Dr. Crowder plunged into his lecture, Ashby took up a red pen and started marking our essays. I, and I suspect others, watched in trepidatious interest as this went on. Later, when I finally got my paper back, I found that three pages had a large “OK” scrawled on them, and the fourth said, “WIRD TYPING.”f
A final Dr. Crowder memory also involves Ashby. It was during a spring-term class that took place just after lunch in the Treischmann building. It was sunny, warm, and the entire class seemed to be mentally outside frolicking on the lawns from the moment we sat down. It was virtually impossible to focus on his talk. At one point, Dr. Crowder threw out a question to the class… and we all just sat there, completely disengaged. So he turned to his son and said, “Ashby, what do you think?” Ashby looked up and said, “Well, what would Erasmus say?” Dr. Crowder took that ball and ran with it while we all went slack-jawed at the realization we’d just been shown up by a second-grader.
I’m holding Dr. Crowder’s family, and our Hendrix family, in my heart at the news of his passing. Rest in peace, good doctor, and thank you for all the wonderful insights into English literature.
Dr. Bland Crowder, you are one-of-a-kind. Thank you for taking the time to teach grammar to a struggling freshman. Your time and patience continues to be greatly appreciated. Cyberhugs and peace to you and your family.
I am so very sad to hear of Dr. Crowder’s death. He was a kind, gentle, caring and considerate person as well as an esteemed professor. I was so very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from him. Thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Blessings, Aubrey Nixon, Class of ’85
After my earlier posting, I realized that, alongside all my Calvin and Hobbes books, was a little volume called: “Did You Get That One?: Quotations from the Hendrix College English Department, 1996-1999.” It was put together by Teri Whittenauer, and here are some not at all appropriate quotations by Dr. Crowder. I only have these listed by the classes he said them in, so there’s very little context. Do try and read them with his voice in your ear.
“Utilize–I think that word sucks hind tit! Why can’t they use use?”
“The Victorian age was an age of soap.”
“Put that, Classicists, in your pipe and smoke it!”
“That’s the first time I’ve ever illustrated an ovary. Hope I got it right!”
“It seems like Jesus is sauntering along with a styrofoam cross.”
“I decided to check out the backsides of some of these when nobody was looking.” -Dr. Crowder, on nude statues
“Where do we get self-confidence from except by self-deception?”
“God is tired of 2,000 years of abstinence!”
“Sometimes it depends on whether you’re being goosed or not.”
“You can’t seduce an unconscious person, can you? Especially if the person is awake.”
“I guess we have to imagine what type of instrument he’d be if she would play him with pursed lips.”
“They’re making hay, constantly reaping the joys of the harvest, aren’t they?”
Dr. Crowder was a very kind professor to me; he was also very patient with me. Being a foreign student and a Physics major, I can’t recall why I signed up for one of his English classes, the name of which I have absolutely forgotten. Anyway, because of the upheavals in my home country at the time, and not knowing the fate of my family for several months, I couldn’t focus much on studying. Instead of flunking me, he kindly gave me an Incomplete and suggested that I take care of business the following school year, which I did with his extensive help. I hope I thanked him enough. A very kind professor, indeed.
Ashby and Lynn, I am so sorry that Bland has died. Although we haven’t seen you all in years, I look back fondly of all the times our Reid family got together for good food, good drinks, and good company. I have good memories of all our lively discussions we had over the years. I will be thinking about you two and would love to see you if you make it to Kentucky.
I have two especially strong recollections of Dr. Crowder. The first was for giving me my first B in college (I was aiming for all As that first trimester. Twenty five years later, I received an award at Hendrix and he was among those in the audience. I told that story as I called him out in the crowd and he immediately shot back, loud enough for everyone to hear him clearly, “you were just lucky for a B.” Everyone laughed and it reminded me what a great sense of humor he had always had.
My second memory was about architecture. His disdain for “too absolute” minimalism was almost religious. He would point out recent buildings “devoid of ornament.”
I don’t know if I disagreed with him in class but I disagreed in my head. And I held that disagreement for years … until at forty I finally agreed … at 50 I disagreed again … and today, at 56 … I’m leaning back toward his view.
Provoking thinking that lasts beyond a moment is not easy. But he has been provoking me ever since I left that class.
And I am now very thankful for that B, too.
Dr. Crowder was one of my favorite professors. He brought charm and wit to his classes. And always challenged his students to be the best they could possibly be. He touched so many of our lives. He will be missed.
I just posted this to Facebook. It’s a silly story, but I think it does aptly capture a fun facet of his personality.
I was so sorry to hear that my college poetry professor, Dr. Ashby Bland Crowder Jr., has died.
I’m not that into poetry (perhaps odd for an English major), but I adored Dr. Crowder. Once, he wanted someone to read the first few lines of a very bad, very inappropriate poem. The guy sitting next to me volunteered me. I was not pleased. I read the first few salacious lines in what Dr. Crowder found to be a boring, monotone way. He wanted more feeling. Much more, which he got when the guy next to me (who I happened to have a crush on) pinched my butt, and I exclaimed with as much passion as Sally at the diner table. Dr. Crowder then exclaimed, “Yes! Yes, Carrie! That was just what I was looking for.” Now that I think about it, I wonder if those two were in cahoots.
Farewell, Dr. Crowder, and thanks for the memories.
Lynn, we remember the Crowders so fondly! Seems like we were always running into you two at restaurants around town or at “functions” in the Big City of Little Rock. Then, of course, there were the church pot lucks — home cookin’ by fine Christian ladies! (certainly not me!) I think we even remember when the Little Prince was born … lucky boy, that Ashby. We regret so much that ties were loosened with Conway, but delight in the fine years you’ve spent in VA. You have our most sincere condolences at Bland’s death, but in our hearts, the Crowders will always be young, strong, and charming.
Madelyn & Jerry Adams
Bland was one of my English professors at Hendrix College. He was always so kind and thoughtful, even as his tests were confounding. His love for literature radiated out. He was always gracious when I would see him outside of his natural Hendrix habitat. He will be missed.
I was so sad to hear Bland had died. I knew him long ago-a gentle and kind person. Sally Crenshaw Witt
I have felt devastated since I heard the terrible news of Bland Crowder’s recent death. The classes I had from him at Hendrix in the mid-1970s confirmed my vocation — teaching English at the university level. He not only educated me: he inspired me.That alone would make Bland a very important person in my life. Since then, however, Bland and I became dear friends and, of course, colleagues in the same profession. He remained a fierce and close reader of my prose-in-process and contributed to editing and polishing an essay for me just this past December. I also remember how much Bland loved to laugh. He had a delightful sense of the absurd. I wish I had had more time to tell him when he was still with us just how much he meant to me.
I passed on this sad news to my father, Bill Hawes, who was Bland’s friend and colleague at Hendrix. He was deeply saddened and, if he could, he would want to express his heartfelt condolences to Lynn and Ashby.
I miss Bland Crowder deeply, and always will. I cannot really express the loss I feel.
Reading all the amazing tributes to a life fully and well lived, I realize it is my loss never to have known him. Lynn, my heart goes out to you and your son. While I will not be able to see you or be at the service as I am out of the country until March 23, know my thoughts and prayers are with you and your son for strength and comfort.
He gave me the first and only “C” of my life…in poetry. What did I know “a-boot” poetry? I wasn’t entirely sure that I liked him all that much then, but he became the best college professor I ever had. Dr. Crowder took me on a journey through the Victorian Period. He put all of the pieces together — religion, art, politics, history and literature. And it came to life! He set me on a trajectory in English, writing and communications that has shaped my entire adult life and career. While I am so deeply saddened to learn of his passing, he left an incredible, indelible mark on generations and generations of students. I am forever grateful.
My story about Dr. Crowder at Hendrix had nothing to do with the English dept. I was a Chemistry major and very active in all choir activities with a gymnastics leg injury, post-surgery, requiring rehab. I met him at the pool on accident early one morning. I was trying to get in and he had a key. We met at the pool after that every morning, so he could let me in. I was one of the first people he called to say “can’t be at the pool today, we’re on the way to the hospital.” The baby was on the way! He didn’t want me outside at the pool waiting for him. His kindness and caring was very important to me then. This memory of him and his special day of being a dad for the first time is one of my favorites from Hendrix. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Dr. Crowder has a special place in my heart and education. I remember as a sophomore I went to him to tell him I had missed writing a poetry paper on account of being broken up with. Not only did he not laugh at me, he granted me an extension that went past his own retirement, AND gave me a poem to read for coping purposes. A favorite teacher and a high quality human.
I knew Bland for a quarter of a century, and I am only right now finding out about his death. I am truly sad. Bland was my academic mentor when I was an English major at Hendrix (1993-1997), later my colleague in the early 2000s when I returned there to teach, and also my collaborator on a book about Seamus Heaney, a poet to whom he introduced me. If anyone is responsible for my becoming an academic, it is Bland Crowder. He taught me to read, to write and to love poetry for its own sake. He encouraged me to appreciate the OED and to avoid the dreaded comma splice. Every year I try to pass these things along to my own students. Mostly, I tell them to read Bland’s articles so they can see how to keep their prose simple. After graduating from Hendrix, I followed in his footsteps to Birkbeck College in London for my PhD. And, eventually, I settled into Victorian poetry just like him. Over the years Bland and I kept in touch as best we could. I remember what a great host he was when I visited him and Lynn in Lodz, Poland, where he was a Fulbright Scholar in 2005. In recent years, I fell out of touch with Bland and much of else besides as I attended to my mother, who died from dementia in 2018. I am sorry not to have been able to see him again or to say goodbye. He is much missed.
Dr. Crowder–the ONLY kind and merciful person I encountered in the Hendrix College Dept. of English. Evidenced by this page full of accolades. I’m saddened to see another light pass from this world.