T. Crow’s Organ Music Faded Away on Earth and Debuted in Heaven
Wafting across the airwaves in heaven is a new organist, University of St. Thomas-Houston’s beloved Professor of History, Musician and Music Historian Thomas (T.) Crow. Associate Professor Crow passed away at his home on Jan. 17, 2022. He had suffered from congestive heart failure.
“This is indeed sad news,” UST President Richard Ludwick said. “Tom was so important to this University. He was a gracious Christian and delightful man. He also provided valuable leadership in an important time of transition for the University. He will be missed. May he rest in a loving embrace of our Lord.”
Earthly Sojourn – Sharing the Joy of Music!
During his earthly sojourn, T. Crow (as he called himself) shared his joy for organ music with several denominations. A devout Episcopalian, he played the organ for Lutheran, Catholic and Jewish congregations. He served as the organist-choirmaster at Bethany Christian Church since 2004 and Congregation Beth Israel starting in 1978.
Crow knew his way around a pipe organ. One of his interests was organ design and installation consultant. He was the principal consultant for the University of St. Thomas Monaghan Pipe Organ during construction of the iconic Chapel of St. Basil – a role he enthusiastically lobbied for to then-President Joseph McFadden. In that capacity, Crow insisted that a 10-cent organ was not befitting a chapel built by the famous architect Philip Johnson, and only a Schoenstein & Company organ made in San Francisco would do. Today, the pipe organ is a prominent feature on the wall to the right of the altar.
In 1998, Crow played the dedication service and first recital on the instrument. He also gave a yearly recital where his enthusiasm for famous composers and sacred music rang out.
“He was a gifted organist,” McFadden said.
Crow’s UST Career
Crow came to UST full-time in 1973 as a lecturer in History. From the fall of 1987 - 2010, he served as the chair of the Music Department while continuing to teach History. He taught British History, Modern European History and Historiography. He conducted research on David Tannenberg, an American organ builder active c. 1760-1810, especially in Moravian Churches. His research also includes compiling a bibliography of Jewish Organ Music and a complete list of pipe organs in Houston.
Crow also served as University organist beginning in 1988, and many graduating alumni heard his music at Graduation Mass.
Southern Gentleman: A Walking Inspiration
When you encountered T. Crow—his clothing style and personality—you thought of a Southern gentleman. Crow’s signature dress code included a jaunty bow tie (never the same one twice, said McFadden), which matched his kind, funny and wise demeanor. Colleagues enjoyed his wit and love of sparring, along with his honesty.
“I learned from T. Crow not to paint everyone the same color, especially the administration,” Professor Claire McDonald, former Department Chair of Music, Drama and Art History, said.
“Tom could be feisty too, and he stood up for his beliefs. Sometimes he was resistant to change, but he tried to be reasonable and see all sides of the issue. He was a fair guy, and I will miss him.”
McFadden echoed Crow’s gift of honesty and counted on it when he, as president, practiced leading by walking around. He would chat with Crow, who would tell him what he was doing right and not so right. “He would look you straight in the eye and tell you the truth,” McFadden remembered.
Crow also used his honesty superpower to guide now-President Richard Ludwick into his position when he was elected Chair of the Faculty Senate in 2018.
McFadden said, “He was a gift to Richard.”
Known as a Tough Professor: Love Him or Not
On the flip side, some UST students found Professor Crow difficult, but others who were “engaged” wrote a review of the class to say, “He is a great professor who is a grandfatherly figure who recounts vivid tales of history.” Another wrote, “While his style is more traditional…he is easily one of the most engaging and funny history professors.”
Professor McDonald notes that those students who caught his fire, like UST alumnus Chris Tennison ’02, went on to minor in History because of him.
McFadden remembers Crow as a “brilliant gentleman who taught in ways I could never teach. He taught a lecture. He had an angry bite that scared people initially but was a kind guy.
He acted like he was tough, especially when he had to. He will always be in my mind.”
Funny Story: When the Bells Rang
McFadden, a born storyteller like Crow, laughed as he reminisced about the time the occasionally irascible professor wanted him to learn how to ring bells at a performance. “He was good at putting on programs,” McFadden said. “He wanted to teach me how to ring bells so I could perform in his program, and he did it. It was a Christmas program. I spent several hours practicing, while he yelled at me and taught me. He wanted to make a fool out of me, and he did it!”
Crow held a bachelor’s degree in English and History (1967) and a master’s degree from Lamar University (1969).
He is survived by his wife Judy.
Services to Celebrate T. Crow's Life
Services celebrating Professor Crow's life will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. in Christ Church Cathedral located at 1117 Texas Avenue, Houston, Texas. To read Professor Crow's obituary, please click here.