Gardener, political advocate and Purdue recruiter are a few of the hats Associate Professor of Chemistry Walter Crouse wears on a day-to-day basis. At the end of the semester, Crouse will add retiree to that list after 30 years of teaching at UVa-Wise.
Crouse first learned of the job opening at Clinch Valley College in 1983 through an American Chemistry Society publication. Heading down to Wise from Ohio for an interview, though, Crouse felt a bit uncertain about where he was going.
“I almost turned around and went back home,” Crouse said with a smile. “I was coming down [U.S.] 23 and I didn’t know there was a new four lane addition and I came all the way down through Jenkins and I said, ‘Where am I?’ But, then I got to the top of the mountain and I said, ‘Oh civilization there’s a four lane highway.’”
That four lane led Crouse to Wise, but everything didn’t exactly go as scheduled for his interview.
“On the day I was here interviewing, Phil Shelton had me back over on the back of campus showing me where they had done all of the strip mining,” he said. “I was standing out where the football field is now and I was supposed to be in [Chancellor] Smiddy’s office at 4:30 p.m. and we are over on the back of campus with weeds up to our waist and I’m in my suit.”
Fortunately, Crouse’s interview was rescheduled for the following morning, he was hired and began teaching at the college in the spring of 1984.
After 30 years, the school Crouse began at has had more than a name change.
“The growth is unbelievable,” he said. “When I came here there was the just the old section of the science building, Zehmer, Smiddy which was called the administration building then, Bowers-Sturgill was a girl’s dorm, Crockett Hall was a co-ed dorm, McCraray was a freshmen dorm and there was the gym. Today, a person could go away for five years, come back and not even recognize it.”
Like the landscape, Crouse has also seen the students change.
“When I first came here most of the students were from this general area with very few students from outside of the area. The student base has become much more diverse,” Crouse said.
Crouse said his lasting memory of teaching will be his students, and that in retirement he will fill up any free time with gardening and politics.
Crouse will also continue on at the college as an adjunct faculty teaching non-major natural science courses. Crouse said having students outside of the science department in these classes is always a rewarding experience.
“I like the variety of people you meet,” he said. “I like trying to get them to think about something in a different way. Because, when you get out in the real world you may not realize what else is out there and that could affect you. You have to be aware.”
Asked what advice he would share with students, Crouse shared a sentiment his former and current students know very well.
“Study! And sit down and get a major that you can get some employment with when you get out of here. You have to pick something that there are jobs out there for,” Crouse said. “Partying on Friday night and playing video games is not going to help your future employment.”