Crawford’s vision: Overcome odds, pursue adventures
Subhead: He accepts challenges from hunting to hitchhiking, credits career success to “more foresight than eyesight.”
By Kristin Canning
What Richard Crawford ’71 lacks in eyesight, he makes up for with ambition.
The 62-year-old Sioux City financial planner has had a lifetime of adventure and successes, despite losing his eyesight to a retina disease at age 10.
Crawford, who disdains the media’s “constant negative news,” has created his own website and a public-speaking career to “share the good news” with light-hearted speeches at commencements, banquets, religious events and corporate meetings.
He volunteers for the National Federation of the Blind, mentors blind children and works with their parents about raising them.
“I help create and find solutions to individual situations. I like giving and sharing,” he said. “I even have a hotline number they can call at any time.”
Crawford received the Handicapped Iowan of the Year from Gov. Terry Branstad in 1986 and the Governor’s Volunteer of the Year Award from Tom Vilsack in 2000 for advocacy for the blind.
“Being blind isn’t easy,” he said. “It’s a lot of work to make it in life, period, let alone if you’re handicapped.”
Crawford has made it — in many ways. As senior vice president for R.W. Baird Wealth Management, he advises clients in 27 states and five countries, turning a potential handicap into a strength.
“I have more foresight than eyesight,” he said. “I’ve built a lot of trust with my clients.”
Crawford has met new clients in an unusual way.
“As a blind person, we’re normally dependent on someone or public transportation to get somewhere, and we have to wait,” he said. “I had the courage to hitchhike, and it let me go where I wanted whenever I wanted.”
The drivers, he said gained respect for his independence.
Crawford’s outgoing personality stems from a childhood of playing and exploring outdoors. His parents didn’t restrict him from much.
“My parents were too young and dumb to know I wasn’t supposed to do things,” he said. “What a blessing to have parents who didn’t coddle me.”
Crawford gained confidence from “just being a child” and playing with other kids. He especially enjoyed tag in the dark. With everyone’s sight diminished, he excelled.
His father took him on hunting trips, but it wasn’t until 2006 that he finally achieved his dream of shooting a buck.
“It was the highest, most powerful adrenaline rush I’ve ever had,” Crawford said. “It’s really not a story about a blind man shooting a deer. It’s about trying to do things in our life. Having successes in life is such a thrill and confidence builder. It doesn’t happen if you stay in the house.”
Crawford also enjoys walleye fishing, cross-country skiing, bowling and reading.
He wrestled at Wartburg and graduated with two majors in three years. Wartburg allowed him to be independent and trusted him to find his way around.
“Usually people put so many roadblocks in the way that it’s discouraging, not encouraging,” Crawford said. “Wartburg didn’t put up a bunch of negatives. They said, ‘Here’s the task at hand, get it done.’”
Ironically, Crawford met his wife, Sara, on a blind date. They have three children and two grandchildren. His oldest daughter helps with his website and arranging speaking engagements. He set the bar high for his children.
“My kids say their worst handicap is their dad,” he remarked, “because I expect a lot from them. But I don’t ask people to do what I wouldn’t do myself.”
Crawford has earned respect and admiration from friends and colleagues.
“One of my friends said, ‘When I first met you, I thought you were fantastic, but then I found out you were just fighting through life like the rest of us,’” Crawford said. “By not letting blindness hold me back, I am a better person in my mind and in my life.”
Kristin Canning ’14 is a communication arts major from Lisbon.