At 65-years-old, Dale Crowley set out to do what most do not after settling into retirement life — attend college, yet again. Crowley decided to go back to college to take some creative writing classes after realizing he had no idea how to properly write the novel he envisioned.
Before attending Shippensburg University, Crowley earned degrees in accounting and business management, and he was an accountant before his retirement. Despite his career in mathematics and business, Crowley’s creative side was just beneath the surface.
“I was carrying around an unpublished novel idea in my head for the majority of my adult life, but I didn’t write it because I was too busy living life,” Crowley said. “Now I have all the time to write it.”
Before Crowley and his wife, Carol, moved to Shippensburg, they lived in the Pittsburgh area to take care of Carol’s parents. Once when travelling, the two passed through Shippensburg and instantly liked the small college town. They later sold their house and built a house in Shippensburg.
“I sat down to write it and realized that I didn’t know a damn thing about writing a damn novel,” Crowley said. He realized that the nearby university, SU, probably had an English department that he could take a creative writing class to learn how to set up and write his novel.
In getting his degree, Crowley was able to skip general education courses, due to already earning his bachelor’s degree and transferring those credits and focusing solely on his English courses. After a few weeks in his English class, they entered a poetry unit and Crowley fell in love with the writing style. This was when he decided to stick around SU and do what it took to earn the degree.
“I thought, ‘You know what, you spent 45 years of your adult life trying to make two and two equal four — it always was. With poetry it doesn’t have to,’ so I figured, ‘OK I want to learn more about this new language that lets you talk about feelings and love and mountain tops and all the good stuff that poetry can do for you,’” Crowley explained.
Crowley admitted that finding inspiration for work was challenging at first, after years of logical thinking in his career. He explained that Nicole Santalucia, an SU English professor, played a large part in helping him find his way through poetry.
“Everything I see is a poem — the whole beauty of the world, the darkness of the world — I can write about that,” Crowley said.
All of the English professors at SU have helped Crowley in refining his writing. “I have been blessed by so many of the professors here — [Neil] Connelly, [Jordan] Windholz, [Michael] Bibby, [Nicole] Santalucia,” Crowley said.
Going to college at 65 as a non-traditional student is very different compared to going as a 26-year-old non-traditional student. When Crowley first started, he felt “trepidation.” He had wondered how his age would play into the college experience socially.
“My world doesn’t end if I don’t have someone to eat lunch with, but within three weeks I was sitting in the CUB and three classmates that I had came over and asked me if I would like to join them,” Crowley said. Crowley has become good friends with those same students all these years later. The group is even meeting up for a farewell lunch as graduation approaches, according to Crowley.
Crowley expressed his gratitude toward the welcoming and open armed environment that he received as a non-traditional student at SU.
“My fellow students and the professors have gone out to make me feel welcomed and that is a really good feeling,” Crowley said.
After graduation, the Crowleys plan to travel together. Crowley plans to do some journaling on the trip and perhaps write a story. He also plans to try to piece together a book of his poetry.
Crowley had one poem published in The Reflector and two published in the Spawning Pool this year. Crowley is a member of The Reflector and has served in the past as the head poetry editor.
“I’ve started on the novel, but I haven’t gotten very far,” Crowley said. “I will try to get it published, but it is OK either way. If it isn’t published, I can set it on my coffee table and say, ‘I did that.’”
Crowley expressed gratitude toward everyone at SU. “I want to extend a thank you to all my professors and all my fellow students and everyone who made this a truly magnificent experience for me,” Crowley said.
“When you go out into the world after you graduate, there are going to be people in the world — naysayers — out there that are going to tell you things are impossible and can’t be done. What I would really like my fellow graduates to remember is that impossible is nothing more than an opinion. Everything is impossible until it isn’t. The only way that you get from impossible to possible is to hope in your mind and your heart and pursue your dream and make it happen,” Crowley explained.