Richmond’s Newest Spider

This article is co-authored by Dylan McAuley and Ben Panko.

THIRTY YEARS AGO NEXT MONTH, a cellist from Cincinnati, Ohio, played for the first time on America’s most prestigious stage. “It’s one of those epiphanic moments – if you can play on the stage of Carnegie Hall, you can play anywhere,” said Ronald Crutcher, who was announced this week as the University of Richmond’s 10th president.

Crutcher, who turned 68 Friday, is the former president of Wheaton College in Massachusetts and will succeed Ed Ayers on July 1. He boasts an impressive résumé as an educator: He has taught and led at institutions including Wheaton, the University of Texas, Miami University in Ohio, and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Crutcher is also an accomplished cellist who seeks to “lift the human spirit” through music, as he said in a 2007 interview with the blog of Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Crutcher was the first cellist to ever receive a doctorate in music from Yale University, and studied under some of the 20th century’s most respected cellists. Since then, Crutcher has shared his music around the world, playing in countries across three continents. His experience as a chamber musician in particular has benefited him greatly in his career as an educator and leader, he said. Since chamber musicians play without a conductor, Crutcher said, “You have to listen to each other, and you have to communicate with each other.”

The Making of a Holiday Card from Wheaton College on Vimeo.

“Being a musician, I am by nature a good listener, but I don’t take that for granted,” Crutcher said.

Jesús Morales saw both sides of Crutcher during the three years he studied cello under him at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Morales arrived late to his audition at the conservatory and was not able to play for any of the regular cello instructors, but Crutcher was so impressed by Morales’ playing that he took him on as a student even though, as dean of the institute, he was already quite busy. Crutcher ended up becoming “one of the biggest influences” in Morales’ life, he said.

“He was always demanding the best out of me,” Morales recalled of Crutcher. Despite the intensity of his twice-a-week lessons, Morales remembers a warm and generous teacher who lent him a cello for his studies and drove him home to Cincinnati for breaks.

“He taught me a lot about dedication,” Morales said. “The man has never stopped aiming for the highest of himself.”

“Being a musician, I am by nature a good listener, but I don’t take that for granted.” – Ronald A. Crutcher, President-Elect

During his tenure at Wheaton, Crutcher accomplished many impressive feats, but his most notable was his fundraising prowess. During the height of the late-2000s recession, he oversaw a tremendously successful fundraising campaign, which took in $137.6 million dollars. He used this capital to increase opportunities for students from all backgrounds through scholarships, new facilities, and innovative research and internship opportunities.

Crutcher’s wide range of skills, which includes the unique ability to write entire paragraphs backwards, led him to co-found the Liberal Education and America’s Promise initiative of the American Association of Colleges & Universities which “champions the importance of a 21st-century liberal arts education,” according to the organization’s website. Through this initiative, Crutcher has not only helped students to realize the value of a well-rounded education, but he has also helped employers to see its importance as well. He has aimed to show that a liberal arts education prepares students to be global citizens by teaching them to be leaders who are capable of solving the complex problems faced by the world today.

President-Elect Ronald Crutcher (right) and his wife, Betty Neal Crutcher, walk through the Robins Arena. Betty Crutcher received her Ph.D. from Miami University, Ronald Crutcher’s alma mater. JONATHAN HAYES | Photo Courtesy
President-Elect Ronald Crutcher (right) and his wife, Betty Neal Crutcher, walk through the Robins Arena. Betty Crutcher received her Ph.D. from Miami University, Ronald Crutcher’s alma mater. JONATHAN HAYES | Photo Courtesy

Crutcher spent time in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, and described the experience as life-changing. “It made me appreciate the United States even more and it also gave me a perspective that is so much broader than it would have been if I hadn’t had those experiences,” he said. “I would not be the person I am today if I had not had those experiences. I’m convinced of that.”

In 2014, Crutcher stepped down as president of Wheaton College and once again pursued his artistic passion abroad. Since then, he has been playing the cello in concerts across Europe as a member of The Klemperer Trio. Gordon Back, the trio’s pianist, spoke highly of Crutcher’s talents: “He is a wonderful human being, a natural leader and is extremely talented in so many different areas. The University of Richmond is fortunate to have such a great president.” As he told the Richmond community in his remarks Friday, Crutcher now looks forward to the opportunity to lead a university that “represents the best that American higher education has to offer.”

We invite the campus as a whole to join Forum Magazine in welcoming President-Elect Ronald Crutcher to the Spider family!

Click here if you would like to hear a sample of President-Elect Crutcher’s cello performances.

Contact Lead Writer Ben Panko at ben.panko@richmond.edu and Assistant Lead Writer Dylan McAuley at dylan.mcauley@richmond.edu.

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