GLENNS AND WARSAW, VA (November 29, 2018): After fourteen years as Rappahannock Community College’s President, Elizabeth (Sissy) Crowther announced her intention to retire to faculty, staff and local media.
“Welcoming change has allowed RCC to transform into a nationally recognized model for rural higher education. And because I feel change makes us stronger, it is easier to tell you that I will retire June 30, 2019.”
“Since 2004, it has been my pleasure and privilege to help craft a Rappahannock Community College that is truthful to its founders’ values, and yet has grown to become recognized–regionally, statewide, and nationally–for its programs, services, and role in regional economic and community development.” Crowther accentuated the positive timing of her retirement and transitioning to a new RCC president.
“Rappahannock Community College will achieve its 50th anniversary on January 9, 2020. The year will produce special opportunities to celebrate the College’s legacy by reconnecting alumnae/i, raising funds, and bringing in new friends. Introducing a new RCC president will be a grand way to mark this place in our history. RCC is at the top of its form, and I could not be more proud of my faculty and staff, and the condition of the College this new president will inherit. Rappahannock Community College is well-positioned for this change.”
Crowther’s retirement plans include tending to family responsibilities, serving on professional boards and consulting, working the family farm near Reedville, pursuing personal interests and travel. She will continue to support the College. “My life has come full circle,” says Crowther.
A Northern Neck native, Crowther grew up on Bruington Farm in Northumberland County. Her late father, Rudolph Prosser Crowther Sr., was president and then chairman of Lillian Lumber Company in Northumberland County. He served on the Rappahannock Community College local board in the 1980s, where he exercised his financial and facilities expertise in higher education, a cause in which he fervently believed.
“My father was so enthusiastic about the educational opportunities available through RCC. He understood how education and advanced training could positively impact the lives of people living in our rural region,” says Crowther.
After graduating from St. Margaret’s School in Tappahannock, Crowther attended Virginia Tech where she earned her BA and later MA in English. “After college, I moved to Richmond and went into financial services. At that time, it was a good option for a woman who wanted to advance in a career. My firm partnered with J Sargeant Reynolds and John Tyler community colleges to provide educational programs for its employees. I saw adults who had never attended college successfully complete classes, earn certificates and degrees, changing their lives for the better and expanding their job opportunities. Inspired, I shifted my career focus from banking to working in the community college system.”
Advancing in an academic career usually required candidates to “come up” through the ranks of academia. So, Crowther applied and was accepted into a doctoral program at the College of William and Mary. She also gained additional experience working for the Dean of Education while enrolled at W&M. There she became good friends with fellow student Robert Griffin who was the academic dean at RCC’s Glenns campus. When a job became available at RCC, Griffin encouraged Crowther to apply.
“My first job at RCC was basically research and effectiveness and whatever else was needed,” says Crowther. In 1993, Crowther advanced to a new position as Head of Instruction at Lord Fairfax Community College that serves the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont regions of Virginia. After more than seven years at Lord Fairfax, Crowther joined Blue Ridge Community College as Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.
“I had worked at Blue Ridge for over three years when the position for President of Rappahannock Community College became open. I knew the college and many of the faculty and staff. I knew the community. Everything fell into place. I was offered the job. So, in 2004, I moved back to my Northern Neck homeplace on Bruington Farm and returned to Rappahannock Community College as its third president.”
Since 2004, Crowther has provided leadership and oversight for College and community initiatives. They include growing the Educational Foundation’s assets from $1 million to $11 million; total facility renovations at both the Glenns and Warsaw campuses; adding satellite sites in Kilmarnock and New Kent; expanding partnerships with community organizations, agencies, and businesses including the establishment of LEAD Northern Neck; and providing focused resources on relevant programs, world-class technology and equipment for instruction and OT training–just to name a few.
Always quick to be inclusive, Crowther acknowledged that the many accomplishments realized over the last 14 years required the talents and efforts of many people.
“With the support and participation of RCC’s College and Educational Foundation boards, faculty and staff, school superintendents, local government and businesses, we have made courageous decisions, developed substantial resources to support our mission, and honed our skills to increase access and success for students.”