Richard Crews

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Richard Crews, circa 1997

Doctor Richard Lawrence Crews (11 July 1937 - 7 March 2012) was a Harvard Medical School graduate, psychiatrist, founder of the controversial and iconoclastic Columbia Pacific University, and "wholistic" health practicioner. He was the first executive director of the Living Universe Foundation.

Early life

Richard was born in Greenwich Village, but grew up in Scarsdale, New York.

Richard excelled at school, graduating from Williams College (magna cum laude, 1959), and Harvard Medical School (1963) with a specialization in psychiatry.

Family

Crews married a woman named Joyce and became stepfather to her daughter, Bess. They later divorced.

With Joyce Crews had one son, Andrew "Andy" Crews (born circa 1970), who obtained a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from California Institute of Technology (1992), and an M.S. in Computer Engineering from University of California at Santa Barbara (1994) [1]. Since 2008 Andy has been an Engineer at Synopsis, based in Sunnyvale, California [2].

As of 1997, Crews had been married (and divorced) four times - "all very successful marriages".

Career in Western Medicine

After Harvard, he first discovered the San Francisco Bay Area during his residency at Letterman Army Hospital.

A few years later an opportunity to become Chief of Psychiatry and Neurology pulled him and his new family--wife Joyce and step-daughter Bess to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He applied for a license to practice in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1969.

In 1971, he returned to the beauty of the Bay Area (now with a family of three including his newborn son Andrew) where he spent most of the rest of his life.

Career in Alternative Medicine

Living in Mill Valley, Richard continued to practice psychiatry, but gradually found he had lost faith and interest in what he called "western medicine". Over the next decade, he explored alternative medicine. He worked with the Creative Living Center, and took a major role at the Wholistic Health and Nutrition Center (WHN). At WHN, he practiced wholistic health, taught nutrition and developed courses on nutrition at several educational institutions.

During this time, he also began practicing the discredited pseudoscience called Homeopathy [3], which was a passion of his for the rest of his life.

In 1978 he co-founded, and was president of Columbia Pacific University (CPU) [4] in San Rafael. In addition to guiding CPU's course as a growing business and university, he wrote study programs, policy manuals, reports and evaluations for legislation in higher education. He would remain with CPU until it closed in the 1990s, after losing a long battle with the state on what was then a radical, non-traditional method of education.

Columbia Pacific was shut down in 1999 for continuing to grant students higher degrees after a 1996 review by the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education deemed the courses insufficiently rigorous. It was a messy affair, though in an interview around fall 2001, it was said "Crews will still defend the iconoclastic and alternative programs that the university ran."

Living Universe Foundation

Richard served as a member of the First Millennial Foundation (FMF) Board of Directors as of 28 February 1997, and also served as Editor-in-Chief of Distant Star, the electronic journal of the FMF.

As far as the FMF is concerned, I used to think the world was divided into two kinds of people--those who thought the planet and the human species could not be saved, and those who didn't understand the problem. Then one day when I was hunting for some good books for a future studies course ("Probabilities and Possibilities: Perspectives on the Future"), I ran across Marshall's book. After spending several months researching OTEC and aquaculture on my own, I decided Marshall was right and maybe the world could be saved. So I've decided to spend the last few decades of my life trying hard to do that.
— Richard Crews, 28 Feb 1997, on the FMF website

He served as the first Executive Director of the Living Universe Foundation, after it was incorporated by Tami Savage in October 1997.

Space Environments Ecovillage

From 1 May 2001 to September 2004, he was the sole resident of the sole large-scale practical project ever undertaken by the FMF/LUF: the Space Environments Ecovillage ("SEE-1"). He studied self-sufficient living practices (as part of the first step towards colonizing the solar system).

On 5 January 2001 he got an eviction notice since the apartment building he was living in had been sold, and he had 60 days to move out. This prompted him to move: "I can't really afford to live here any more. Since I'm now on Social Security, my rent has grown to take almost all of that. One local contractor told me recently that apartment rents are up about 30% around here just in the past couple of years." [5]

Therefore, in February 2001, despite his age (63), he opted to finally take the plunge and move to the Space Environments Ecovillage (SEE-1) that had been purchased by William A. Gale in 1997. He would become the first resident.

When I first came to Bastrop in February of 2001, I was living in a cabin about 3 miles from here. I use to bring everything I would need for the day--tools and supplies but also a bottle of water and a roll of toilet paper--with me when I drove over to the SEE site in the morning to work. All there was here was a muddy access road to 20 acres of impenetrable, thickly overgrown woods and thorny shrubs and vines. I worked for several weeks clearing enough land and negotiating with neighbors (for easements), utility companies, and municipal authorities so that I could bring in a used mobile home. May 1, 2001, I moved in--still without water, electricity, or phone.
— Richard Crews, SEE Report, 13 December 2003 [6]

After moving the used mobile home to the site, on 1 May 2001, he moved in.

The SEE-1 address was 135 Millennial Way, Bastrop, TX 78602.

Various other residents stayed for short periods - the first arriving in September 2001. Apparently some unsavoury types as well:

As to personnel changes, Laura is gone. Last Saturday morning she said she was going out with a friend for "a couple of hours" for "a little breakfast." I haven't seen her since. (Actually it is slightly more complicated than that, but not much.) I asked Michael to leave, too, but gradually, since he doesn't have any place to go.

...

I feel like I should say something in Laura's defense--she is a sweet lady and I love her dearly, but she is psychotic (speaking as an ex-psychiatrist), takes a lot of drugs, and has rather poor impulse control sometimes (hence running off to spend a few nights with an ex-boyfriend). I guess that wasn't much of a defense, but so be it. Anyway, gone is gone. I've told her (by phone) not to come back any more.
— Richard Crews, 20 March 2004 [7]

His final regular blog entry appeared on 26 March 2004:

SEE report for Friday, March 26, 2004

The weather the past few days has been overcast and muggy with rare, light sprinkles, and with temperatures rising into the 90s--a bit cloying but not terribly offensive (not yet, anyway--we will hit over 110 degrees most every day in June, July, and August). The fence is progressing well--more than half of the wood’s boundary has been completed. The dewberry festival has gotten under way, so the fields have become sprinkled liberally with white blossoms and the promise, a few weeks hence, of rich, juicy berries (around here they’re called dewberries, a lot of places they’re called blackberries or boysenberries). Mowing season is nearly upon us. In a week or two at most I will need to start mowing all the cleared area--about five acres--a full day’s work--every two weeks. And finally, as herald of the oncoming season, I have turned off the hot water heater in the house until October (showers and washing will be done cool, not warm) and I took my first dip in the wading pool yesterday (the water temperature was 78--the air temperature, 92).

I put in five new fruit trees along the front “breakwater”--three figs and two plums, all different species. And eleven of the fruit trees planted prior years have awakened from their winter dormancy and sprouted buds or flowers. Plus I put in ten flowering trees provided by the Arbor Day Society along the front fence by the car-park. I should also mention that wildflowers, now yellow and white but soon to be red, blue, etc., are spread thickly across the lawn and fields, with Indian paintbrush and blue bonnets beginning to show.

On a more somber note, I returned a donation check I got in the mail yesterday. I wrote, in part, “I, too, believe that Marshall Savage’s book, The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps, presents a magnificent vision of a path for creating a proper and inspiring future for humankind. The First Millennial Foundation (FMF) and its successor, The Living Universe Foundation (LUF), put some life into that vision and generated considerable enthusiasm for hundreds of us. However, the FMF and LUF are no more. They had their day and are no longer functioning (or legally incorporated) entities. This is not to be lamented. Times change. Visions evolve. We move on.”
— Richard Crews, 26 March 2004 [8]

He announced he was moving back to California to the group on 19 August 2004. He lived at SEE-1 until about September or October 2004:

I'm moving back to California in a few weeks. As you know, I haven't been active in the fmf-luf for several months. In cleaning up and packing up, I find have a couple of cartons, maybe 75 copies, of _The Millennial Project_

I hate to throw them out--they are "out of print" with somewhat limited availability although one can buy one at Amazon.com, used, for $9 or even less these days. If someone wants to pay the $30-or-so shipping, I will tape the cartons, address them, and take them to UPS.

Let me know (with your s-mail address).

Cheers, Richard
— Richard Crews, LUF Yahoo Groups mailing list, 19 August 2004

After he decided to leave in 2004, the land reverted back to the estate of William A. Gale, who had died in August 2002.

In 2011, in private correspondence with Dmitry Donskoy, he described his experience as:

I understand that the "SEE Reports" that I filed from Bastrop, Texas by email every day for a couple of years have been resurrected online somewhere. That would far exceed anything I can remember about the SEE experiences--

the snakes (giant rat snakes, rattlers, water moccasins, copperheads), black widow spiders, scorpions,

the "ant wars"--discovering how to get fire ant colonies to attack one another--no chemical poisons needed

the 125-degree summer days (dozens in a row, with no rain for months)

gradually clearing 7 acres of thick, thorny, head-high vines (so thick you couldn't even cut your way through them with a machete)

putting in hundreds of fence posts and over a half-mile (total) of chain-link fencing

the plague of grasshoppers,

the front "breakwater" of fruit trees that died year after year no matter how faithfully I watered them,

the guinea hens and chickens and goats,

hydroponics tanks, and stocking fish tanks and ponds

the wind mill and solar panels....
— Richard Crews, private email correspondence with Dmitry Donskoy, 15 June 2011

Later life

In 2004, he moved back to the Bay Area to be close to his son, Andrew. Here his retirement was filled with projects, including acting, singing, tutoring, blogging about the world, and in 2010, he worked on the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.

He was active in posting on the LUF forums until the very end of his life, making a post about sustainable nutrition on 5 March 2012, just two days before his death. [9].

Personality

Crews had a difficult, stubborn personality, that tended to generate conflict when working with others.

From the 24 August 1997 minutes of the FMF tri-state chapter: "The problems between Kail Anderson and Richard Crews were briefly discussed." And later in the same minutes:

Group Troubleshooting There was some discussion about a disagreement that had developed between Gale and Richard Crews. Richard wished to push forward more quickly with the establishment of the base utilities, and Gale wanted to wait until the cooperative was officially incorporated. A reply that Gale had drafted to Richard was reviewed, and slightly revised. Everyone endorsed Gale's response.
— Dmitry Donskoy, FMF Tri-State Chapter, Meeting Minutes, 24 August 1997 [10]

Crews decided he had had enough of LUF on 19 January 2006:

subject: Delist me, please

Please take me off the luf-team emailing list or tell me how to do it.

Thanks for the memories, but it is hard for me to get interested in it any more.

Richard Crews
— Richard Crews, [11]

Longtime member Keith Dauzat reacted that day:

I know both of you are new here so I will say this gently. "Mr.

Delist" happens to be Dr. Richard Crews. He is probably the foremost person, other than Marshall Savage, ever in this orgainization. He held the title of President for most of the corporation's existence, save for a brief period in the very, very beginning and again at the very, very end. He was largely responsible for the successes of the peak membership period. He was the driving force that kept the organization alive during some very difficult years. He gave the FMF and later the LUF one hell of a lot of money, time, effort, and a lot of intangible things over a period of a over a decade. If he feels like the best thing for his life after so many years of service to the group is to leave quietly, I am granting it to him without any resistance.

I have set Dr. Crews membership to "no email." His actual request was for de-listing but in what is probably a mark of poor ethics on my part, I only set him to web only in the hopes that he might one day change his mind. Dr. Crews and I had many disagreements, no arguments, in our mutual time here but I have to say he has earned the right to be treated with respect and dignity.

This is a very sad day for the FMF/LUF, ranking up there with

Savage's resignation and the death of William Gale.
— Keith Dauzat, 19 January 2006 [12]

Death

At the time of his death in 2012, he was survived by his son, Andrew, former wife and later close friend Joyce, step-daughter Bess and sister Dorothy. There was a memorial gathering on 9 June 2012, from 2-4:00 PM at the Homestead Valley Community Center, 315 Montford Ave in Mill Valley.

Richard Crews Autobiography, circa 1996

I grew up in Scarsdale, just north of New York City. I got a B.A. from Williams College and then an M.D. from Harvard. Then, heeding the advice of Horace Greeley ("Go west, young man, go west"), I headed out to San Francisco and had a medical-surgical internship at San Francisco General Hospital. Then I got drafted. I'd never really thought much about the army (except to avoid it by staying in school) and it turned out not to be too bad--in fact, I decided to stay in for seven years. I finished my psychiatric training at Letterman, the huge Army hospital in San Francisco, and then spent three years as Chief of Psychiatry at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In 1970 I got out of the Army and started in private practice in psychiatry in Mill Valley, California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. During the next ten years I got into teaching and also setting up educational programs, mostly in the behavioral sciences (psychology, social work, etc.). Then in 1978 I was asked to join a small group and became the founding president of Columbia Pacific University. That has occupied most of my time over the past 19 years--curriculum design, administration, and public relations. Recently I also became president of The Wyoming College of Advanced Studies.

I've been in and out of music most of my life. I studied advanced harmony and composition in college and still sing a fair bass and compose choral works from time to time (five of my choral compositions were performed at the College of Marin in 1995-1996). I also write poems and short stories (I've published three collections) and have served for several years as the chief editor for a literary journal, the "CPU Review," published by Columbia Pacific University. Actually in total I've published just over 20 books, but most of them are rather dry academic things.

Along the way I've been married (and divorced) four times--all very successful marriages. I have one son, Andy, who is 26, a world-class athelete (he was captain of the collegiate ultimate team that came in first in the nation in 1996), and 9/10 of a Ph.D. in computer programming--as well as being a remarkably sensitive and mature gentleman (I guess he got a lot from his mother).

As far as the FMF is concerned, I used to think the world was divided into two kinds of people--those who thought the planet and the human species could not be saved, and those who didn't understand the problem. Then one day when I was hunting for some good books for a future studies course ("Probabilities and Possibilities: Perspectives on the Future"), I ran across Marshall's book. After spending several months researching OTEC and aquaculture on my own, I decided Marshall was right and maybe the world could be saved. So I've decided to spend the last few decades of my life trying hard to do that.

— Richard Crews, autobiography, written sometime before 28 Feb 1997 [13]

Excerpt from Rocket Dreams by Marina Benjamin (2003)

Rocket Dreams cover

Peace, harmony, and understanding have been the mantra of so many for so long, that it is difficult to approach the impulse behind the sloganeering without seeing the entire history of countercultural hope and protest blur into hazy indistinction. But not too difficult. The utopian musings of cyber-gurus and the dreamy aspirations of citizens of cyber-communities are reflections, imperfectly refracted through two decades, of the drive, or perhaps I should say the crusade, that took place in the mid-1970s to win credence (and popular support and serious government funding) for space colonies.

The parallels are striking. It’s not just that cyberspace has effectively replaced outer space as the new frontier, as the place where we might remake ourselves, begin anew, learn from our mistakes, and expand exponentially without ever exhausting the field of exploration. No, it’s that cyberspace, like outer space, is not here. Just as thoroughly as breaking the bonds of gravity, venturing into cyberspace feeds a desire for escape, whether from the body, the family, the nation, or from mortal life itself. Somehow, once you’re floating colonies far removed from the rest of the known world (but designed nonetheless to reproduce every feature of its physical aspect), seems positively ordinary. It was not always so.

“Here I sit in a patched-up mobile home on a lushly green field (mostly mesquite, Johnson grass and croton) at the end of a dirt road on the rural outskirts of a small town in Texas. A thick, forested fringe of cedar, oak and pine starts a hundred yards away to the east and north. A ranch with grazing cattle stretches to the west. My main companion is Ishi, the sole survivor of a small flock of guinea fowl I bought as chicks during the summer.” These words come from the journal of Richard Crews, a modern-day Crusoe who has elected to maroon himself (more or less) on a twenty-acre plot of land outside Bastrop, Texas, there to undertake a grand experiment in self-sufficient living. The experiment was supposed to be collective, but from May 2001, when Crews first moved onto the site, until November, he was the sole resident of his “ecovillage.” This diary entry dates from September, by which time Crews had put in a flush toilet, water, electricity, even a phone. He’d also acquired some solar panels, built a windmill on his roof, dabbled in hydroponics, and added gardening, composting, and recycling to his daily routine.

It may not be much, but it’s Crews’s first step toward paradise. Crews, who has long been committed to what he calls “ecological sanity,” does not believe that he’s abandoning the civilized world. Rather, he intends his efforts at creating a self-contained world to serve as an example to the rest of us as the only way that we might guarantee the very survival of civilization. While others are flocking to cyberspace to realize utopian dreams of community and explo re what it means to build a “civilized” world, Crews still believes in the down and dirty that’s involved in building colonies for real. He’s a genuine seventies throwback. But what distinguishes his Space Environment Ecovillage, or SEE-1, from a commune, say, is that far from being an end in itself, it is only the first phase of an ambitious scheme calculated to take mankind to the stars.

The mastermind behind the colonization scheme is Marshall T. Savage, an African American [ed-incorrect] fine arts graduate who in the early nineties remodeled himself as a scientific visionary and hatched an eight-step plan for migrating into space. Crews is one of a few dozen people for whom reading Savage’s book, The Millennial Project , was a life-changing experience, and the SEE-1 colony over which he presides represents the project’s modest beginning—a capsule world that aims to operate with complete autonomy. In time, SEE-2 of people,” says Crews, “and it will be a step toward a fully self-sustaining, floating ocean colony to be called Aquarius. This, in turn, will be a step toward even more isolated, self-sustaining colonies ‘floating’ (so to speak) in outer space.” Crews and his fellow devotees have banded together to form the Living Universe Foundation (LUF), a nonprofit enterprise dedicated to implementing the Savage plan. However, Crews, a psychiatrist with a Harvard M.D. whose wiry frame and cropped gray hair exude both health and energy, has taken his commitment to the next level. Having retired from private practice in the Bay Area’s Mill Valley, where he also served as president of Columbia Pacific University, he packed his bags and moved to Bastrop to live out his “frontier dream” and become the LUF’s first colonist at SEE-1. The decisive point for Crews came after Columbia Pacific was shut down in 1999 for continuing to grant students higher degrees after a 1996 review by the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education deemed the courses insufficiently rigorous. It was a messy affair, though Crews will still defend the iconoclastic and alternative programs that the university ran.

Now, instead of battling the California judiciary, a “re-born” Crews spends his days mostly outdoors, building and gardening, fighting off unwanted swarms of grasshoppers, tending his fish tank and his guinea fowl, and dreaming of SEE-2. “I have a firm spiritual connection to the vision,” he told me, “doing the best we can to salvage the species and rising to the challenge of the greatest frontier. We’re at a very early stage of course, but then the millennium is young.” In a world where instant gratification is the order of the day, Crews feels he has rediscovered the virtues of patience and the importance of distant visions. In his journal, he pays homage to the generations who came before us and gave their energies to building a better future, “that we might stand on their shoulders and see farther than they ever dreamed of seeing.” His passionate belief is that we should do the same “because it is the greatest gift that we can give our children—to salvage and reconstruct the beautiful ecosystems of the Earth, and to move humanity forward to the ‘high frontier’ of space—to work toward raising Earth-born life off of this one fragile planet.”

This, of course, is where dreams begin. Only in this particular case, it is where they end.

In the story of the rise and fall of the space colony, the name of one man stands out among all others: Gerard O’Neill. A charismatic public speaker, with the smooth good looks of a television soap star and an endearingly modish mop of hair, cut Beatles-style, O’Neill burst into popular consciousness in 1974 after publishing a visionary article in the journal Physics Today in which he outlined a scheme for human migration to the stars. The program relied on the construction of giant, rotating, tubular (or toroid, meaning doughnut-shaped) colonies in low Earth orbit, similar to the kind of structures that science fiction author Larry Niven later placed at the center of his Ring-world novels. Each “Island” habitat was to be several miles long, divided longitudinally into six regions (three strips of fertile farmland alternating with three zones of glass windows), capped by hemispheres large enough to contain mountain ranges, and shrouded within a petal-like array of strip mirrors designed to reflect sunlight into the body of the beast. In terms of both power and food consumption, the colonies would be completely self-sufficient. Moreover, they would be capable of supporting 10,000 people living in the kind of rational societies of which Earthbound folk could only dream.

It was paradise regained, and plausibly so-at least for the few short years in which people marveled at O’Neill’s skill in rolling together three cherished models of human development: the American model of settling a new frontier, the religious model of Christian perfectionism, and the evolutionary model that insists that speciation (the arising of new species) occurs more rapidly in isolated communities. As if to underscore the fact that O’Neill’s colonies were progressive by any measure, NASA decided to fund them. From 1975 to 1979, the agency sponsored research into colony construction and the “mass-driver” technology this called for, and organized conferences and study groups to conduct feasibility studies and produce timetables and budgets. After the moon race of the sixties, NASA bigwigs rightly divined that space colonies had the potential to be the Big Idea of the seventies. And why not? It had, after all, been a Big Idea of the nineties…the 1890s.

Sources

Rocket Dreams: How the Space Age Shaped Our Vision of a World Beyond. Marina Benjamin. Published by Simon and Shuster, 25 May 2003. ISBN 9780743254175

Legacy.com [14]

Richard Crews Blogspot [15]

Living Universe Wiki [16]

FMF website, retrieved from Internet Archive, 28 Feb 1997 [17]