STEUBENVILLE - Rex Crawley knew the value and benefits of education, and he worked hard to make education available to many others, say many who knew him.
Funeral services for the late Steubenville native and Robert Morris University professor will be held at noon today at Calvary Pentecostal Church, where visitation will be held at 10 a.m.
Crawley died Nov. 23 following a recurring battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was 49.
A 1982 graduate of Steubenville High School, Crawley served many roles at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, including assistant dean and professor of its school of communications and information systems, founding co-director of the Black Male Leadership Institute and chairman of the Uzuri Think Tank.
The think tank is a research center aimed at identifying traits shared by successful African-American men and setting forth role models for others.
Laura Meeks, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, said such endeavors were typical of Crawley, who helped many students at the college to further their education at Robert Morris.
Meeks, who recalled a talk Crawley gave to members of the college's Phi Theta Kappa honor society, called him inspiring.
"He was a leader of leaders and a leader of students," she said.
Melanie DiCarlo, administrative assistant to Meeks, said, "He touched a lot of lives and was a great role model."
Among them was DiCarlo's niece, Alysha Watson, who said she was among a number of area students whom Crawley encouraged to enroll at Robert Morris University and maintained contact through their college careers and beyond.
"Many times people gained connections through him. It's almost like an ongoing legacy through him," said Watson, who found success in RMU's theater program and Pittsburgh's Byham Theater.
Duane Jennings, children's program coordinator for the Martin Luther King Association, recalled the Million Man March Committee, of which Jennings also was a leader, recognizing Crawley for his work in education several years ago.
"He helped a number of kids from this area into Robert Morris University. He would not only help them get there but also mentor them once they were there," Jennings said.
And Crawley's influence wasn't limited to RMU.
"He was a great mentor to me and the reason I got involved in higher education," said Cierra Gillison, an athletic academic counselor with Ohio State University who visited Crawley in the hospital with her father, Lee, a guidance counselor at Steubenville High School.
Gillison said even in illness, Crawley displayed high spirits, cracking jokes in his hospital bed.
"He always maintained a really positive personality," she said.
Crawley didn't let his first bout with cancer in 1999 stop him from earning a doctoral degree in intercultural communication from Ohio University. Following a bone marrow transplant, he was in remission for 12 years.
The disease returned in 2011, but he defeated it with the help of chemotherapy. But it resurfaced this year, leading Crawley to write about his battle with cancer and efforts to find a bone marrow transplant through a blog.
A board member for the National Bone Marrow Donors program since 2009, he also was active with the Kappa Alpha Psi honors fraternity and its scholarship program, August Wilson Arts and Cultural Center and Greater Zion Temple Pentecostal Church, where he was an administrator.
Officials at RMU said he will be remembered not only for his academic accomplishments but also for his colorful bow ties, bright smile and positive outlook.
RMU President Gregory Dell'Omo said, "Rex served many important roles at RMU, most recently as the endowed chair and executive director of the Uzuri Think Tank. Through his leadership of the Black Male Leadership Development Institute, Rex had a profound and lasting impact on hundreds of young men throughout the Pittsburgh region - just one example of his exemplary service to the larger community."
"Rex will be missed greatly, as he was such an integral part of the RMU family."
Asantewa Alowile, president of LaBelle Neighbors who Care, recalled a Black History Month Film Festival held by the group and Historic Fort Steuben at which Crawley spoke on "What Does Trouble Mean: Nate Smith's Revolution," a documentary on a black labor organizer of which Crawley was an executive producer.
Alowile said Crawley and his family have found success in various avenues and wanted others in their hometown to succeed also.
"He and his family have reached back to help others," she said, adding, "It's been said, you're known for what you do, and he is known."
Crawley is survived by his wife, Daria, an associate professor at RMU; and two sons, Xavier and Vaughn.