As director of financial aid from 2007 to 2019, Don Crewell helped keep Caltech’s financial aid program competitive with those of peer institutions. But his dedication extended beyond his professional duties. More than 1,000 students and families received financial assistance during his tenure, and the care he showed them came from the heart.
Crewell, who passed away on March 17, 2020, is warmly remembered by the Caltech community. Joe Shepherd, the C. L. “Kelly” Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering and former vice president for student affairs, recalls with fondness, “He was compassionate and thoughtful, and provided that personal touch that we believe characterizes our work with students and families.”
Thus, to those who knew Crewell, it would come as no surprise to learn of his bequest to Caltech. What some might find unexpected is that his gift was not directed to scholarships. Instead, he created an endowment that Caltech’s president and provost can use to address the Institute’s highest priorities.
Greg Timberlake, executor to Crewell’s estate, provides some insight into his dear friend’s intentions. “Don was motivated by a personal concern that each student leave Caltech without the heavy burden of debt,” Timberlake says. “Creating an unrestricted fund is an expression of his trust in Caltech’s commitment to students.”
Both of Crewell’s parents were teachers, so, from an early age, institutions of learning featured prominently in his life. Before he joined Caltech, he administered student services and financial aid at other schools, but Timberlake notes that Crewell was especially honored to work at Caltech. He viewed every student who graduated as full of promise to make the world a better place.