Spend an afternoon with Suzanne Crowell and it’s easy to see why she is this year’s Anna Horton Ruby Award recipient. Her tenacity and commitment to Christ as a philanthropist and community servant match those of Anna Horton, Biola’s co-founder and first dean of women.
Crowell’s family lineage runs deep into Biola’s history and founding. Her late husband, Donald Warren Crowell, was the great nephew of both Lula Crowell, wife of Biola co-founder Lyman Stewart, and Alice Gray Crowell, for whom Biola’s Conservatory of Music building, Crowell Hall, is named. Since 2005, Crowell’s family name has also been attached to Biola’s Crowell School of Business, in recognition of her significant support for the university.
“I was very blessed to be put in the same category as Anna Horton,” said Crowell, who received the award at a ceremony in March. “She was a wonderful woman. I fantasize a lot about meeting Lyman and now, Anna Horton, and Don’s two aunts in heaven. It was neat for me to see that our name is perpetuated on buildings at Biola with their names.”
The award for lifetime commitment and service is given annually to a woman who exemplifies Horton’s commitment to Biola students’ education and spiritual development while offering support for them either financially or relationally.
Crowell has played a major role in the lives of Biola students and the legacy of the university through acts of leadership and generosity. It was soon after her husband passed away in 2004 that she rediscovered her family’s deep roots with the university and gave the initial gift for Biola’s Crowell School of Business building, which opened in 2007. The partnership with the business school was fitting, as her father-in-law and husband had built a lasting legacy in business through the family’s financial management company, Crowell, Weedon and Co., one of the largest independent investment firms in the Western United States. (Her sons Andrew and Donald now lead the company.)
The school that bears her name operates by the motto “business as ministry,” which Crowell has personally exemplified in many different leadership capacities.
As mayor of San Marino, Calif., where she spent eight years on the City Council, Crowell started a prayer group of women whom she deemed “the San Marino Saints” — women who, in her words, “prayed often, long and hard” for the city. While serving on the board for Harvest Evangelism, Crowell went to Argentina four years in a row to serve and spread the name of Jesus. In 2004, she served as vice president of the executive committee for the Billy Graham Crusade at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
She has also served on the boards of Huntington Hospital and the University Kidney Research Organization, and has received numerous accolades, including being named California Senate Woman of the Year in 1991.
“I wouldn’t have gotten into most of the roles I’ve been in had I not felt called to do them,” she said. “The importance is knowing where you came from and having Jesus in your life.”
For Crowell, much of “having Jesus” daily means prayer. A few minutes don’t pass without her mentioning the topic — a testament to her faithful walk with God and commitment to follow God’s leading.
She attributes her marvelously dotted career and ease of moving between different roles to God’s guidance.
“If you have a good prayer life, you know when the Lord is saying, ‘Let’s shift gears,’” said Crowell.
As someone who has integrated her faith into her career, Crowell’s hope is that Biola graduates will do the same and spread the word of God through their work and vocations. In business, that includes being a person of Christ-like integrity, she said.
“Just be an honorable person,” she said. “People pick up on that. They pick up on who you are if they see you in action.”