Honoring Parents and Helping Veterans Access Higher Education

By Mair Allen

With establishment of Social Courage Award, Steve Crandall builds on his family’s legacy of service and study.

Bruce Crandall served two tours in the Vietnam War. During the Battle of la Drang in 1965, he flew his helicopter in and out of an area under heavy fire, bringing ammunition and supplies to U.S. forces and rescuing over 70 people. For his bravery, he received the Medal of Honor. The story was so inspirational, Greg Kinnear played him in the film We Were Soldiers. 

But to his son, Steve Crandall, a different accomplishment was equally inspiring: his hard work to graduate from college. Bruce Crandall completed his degree during his service—a journey that took seventeen years. He often attended night classes and studied at seven different universities.

Steve Crandall’s mother, Arlene, also went to great lengths to finish college. She went back to school at the same time her sons left the house. Crandall and his mother found themselves taking the same classes at the same time. “I had had to take an accounting course, and she was taking an accounting course, too,” Crandall remembers. “I was so pleased. I said, ‘Oh, I got a 4.0.’ She said, ‘Oh, so did I.’” 

This legacy of service and self-betterment through education is part of why it’s perfectly fitting that Crandall has established a scholarship in his parent’s honor. The Bruce and Arlene Crandall Social Courage Award is available to first-year graduate students who have served their nation through the military, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or other ways. For Crandall, this is an ideal way to show honor and bring good into the world. “My parents have gotten a lot of recognition over the years,” Crandall says. “But this feels really right to me.” 

Crandall began the process of setting up the endowed scholarship in 2017. One aspect of the award that was important to him was that it continue in perpetuity. In order to achieve this goal, Antioch and Crandall settled on a figure of at least $100,000 to sustain the scholarship on the interest and investment return of the initial amount. “Even while we’re using funds for those scholarships, it’s still continuing to grow,” Crandall says. “So it’s a long-term strategy and one that I’m excited for.” 

Already, the Bruce and Arlene Crandall Social Courage Award is starting to change the lives of its recipients. The first awardee, Nikole Manieri, is a former Americorp VISTA member currently enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing. She is focusing on playwriting, with a focus on cultural reclamation of her southern Italian roots and the role of theater in building community. 

For Crandall, who has served on Antioch University’s Board of Governors since 2016, nothing brings him more joy than helping provide future learners with the same support he felt from his parents as he followed his own dreams. And Antioch, with its values and commitment to higher education for learners of all ages and backgrounds, is the perfect place to make a difference. “Social, environmental, and economic justice all resonate with me,” he says. “I’ve been a civil rights advocate my whole life as an openly gay man. Antioch felt so connected to me. It felt heart-connected.”