For veterans and others who have spent time serving their country, finding the next step after their service ends is not always obvious—and often requires support. That is why Steve Crandall, a member of Antioch’s Board of Governors, has established the Bruce and Arlene Crandall Social Courage Award. This scholarship is intended for first-year graduate students who have served their nation through the armed forces, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or other avenues. In creating the scholarship, Crandall found the perfect way to celebrate the life and legacy of his parents, both of whom were exceptionally courageous. And as it has found its first awardee, the scholarship is already making an impact and helping a student with a history of service.
Supporting the Next Step
Crandall has been an Antioch Board member for six years. With the perspective of having served on several boards, he sees Antioch as a different kind of institution than most. “When people talk about Antioch, one of the first things that they talk about is the values,” Crandall says. “Which is really unique and makes it such an honor to serve on the board.”
When he began to consider what kind of legacy he wanted to create for his parents, it was obvious to him that a scholarship would be perfect. The foundations of Antioch aligned with many of the lessons he learned from his parents. “One of the great values that I got from them was that you need to be able to look in the mirror and be really proud of who you see looking back,” Crandall says.
The first recipient of the Bruce and Arlene Social Courage Award, Nikole Manieri, can certainly be proud of her reflection. A former Americorp VISTA who now runs an educational, nonprofit farm, Manieri is studying creative writing in the Antioch MFA program with a focus on playwriting. Her work is connected to cultural reclamation of her southern Italian roots and is centered in community building. Her commitment to creating sustainable ways of learning, living, and creating is another kind of courage.
Creating a Legacy That Reflects His Parents’ Partnership
Arlene raised three children while Colonel Bruce Crandall was on active duty. Although it’s common for Medal of Honor recipients to receive accolades, from monuments to museum names, Arlene made his career possible. “He wouldn’t have been able to do what he did if it hadn’t been for her,” Crandall says. She provided mentorship in her community to other women whose partners were in combat and created a stable life out of the inherent instability of being a military family.
His father served two tours in the Vietnam War, and during the Battle of la Drang in 1965 flew his helicopter in and out of an area under heavy fire, rescuing over 70 people. His actions not only saved those lives but inspired fellow pilots to continue flying as well. In addition to many other recognitions for bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action in 2007. His life has become well documented, Greg Kinnear played him in the movie We Were Soldiers.
Crandall wanted to create an award that reflected these different kinds of courage, so this scholarship is in both of his parents’ names. And it’s available to first-year graduate students who have provided national service in US military contexts, but also through organizations like the Peace Corps, Americorp, City Year, and VISTA to recognize courage and service come in many forms. “My parents have gotten a lot of recognition over the years,” Crandall says, “but this feels really right to me.”
Crandall began the process of setting up the endowed scholarship in 2017. One aspect of the award that was important to him was that it continues in perpetuity. In order to achieve this goal Antioch and Crandall knew they would need at least 100,000 dollars to sustain the scholarship on the interest and investment return of the initial amount. “Even while we’re using funds for those scholarships, it’s still continuing to grow,” Crandall says. “So it’s a long-term strategy and one that I’m excited for.”
Community and Creativity Combine for First Recipient
Manieri is motivated by cultural renewal. “For me, that’s community-based work. And learning to create spaces that are inclusive,” she says. “That way we can contribute from the best of who we are.” Her farm is a space where people are invited to learn to build lives that are connected to the earth through seasonal and community events. From sustenance to celebration Manieri helps herself and others heal from living in a society that is disconnected from the foundations of what makes us a part of the world.
For 14 years her energy has gone into creating sustainable, restorative healing practices through community conversations, a model known as circle work. Applying for the Antioch MFA program in playwriting was a way to invest in herself through creative practice. Her farm regularly hosts seasonal celebrations based on the agricultural rhythms of the land, but she wants to deepen them with her long-time passions of writing and music. “There’s a ritual theater piece of how we express inside of the cycles of the land and create art for those celebrations,” she says. “I really wanted to center that part of myself and bring that aspect of culture forward.”
Her long-term goal for her writing is to integrate into her life, just as being in relationship to her community and land has been. Bringing more artistic aspects into her work is a commitment she’s made for herself. “If I’m not careful, my service to my community can be what runs me, and I’ll never get to this part,” she says. “This was me putting a stake in the ground, saying this is a part of myself that I really want to invest in.” The Bruce and Arlene Social Courage Award is perfect for helping someone who has given so much to others have the opportunity to nurture themselves as well.
Commitments to Education and Courage
Growing up in a military family things were strict, but Crandall’s parents wanted their children to have better lives than they did. “It’s a little corny, but we were raised to be the best we could be,” Crandall says. “To actually live up to our full potential.”
After living on bases from Caracas, Venezuela to Bangkok, Thailand the boys attended high school in San Francisco. Even though it was the 1970s and American culture was becoming more radical, the boys had crew cuts and wore slacks to class. “I didn’t own a pair of blue jeans until I left to go to college, because my dad was very poor growing up and all he had was jeans,” Crandall says
Arlene and Bruce both went to great lengths to finish college themselves. She went back to when her sons were in school. Crandall and his mother were both taking the same classes at the same time. “I had had to take an accounting course and she was taking an accounting course too,” Crandall remembers. “I was so pleased. I said, ‘Oh, I got a 4.0.’ She said, ‘Oh, so did I.’”
Crandall’s father also worked hard to graduate college. He completed his degree during his service—a journey that took seventeen years. He often attended night classes and studied at seven different universities. This commitment to higher education helped shape Crandall’s life.
This is why he wants this scholarship to continue to provide the same support he felt from his parents to future learners following their dreams. Antioch’s values and higher education are entwined with his vision for a better future and connect to his past. “Social, environmental, and economic justice all resonate with me. I’ve been a civil rights advocate my whole life as an openly gay man,” he says. “Antioch felt so connected to me. It felt heart-connected.”
Crandall grew up learning from both his mother and father. “I always say I get my attention to detail and drive from my dad, but I get my compassion for people and my empathy and my desire to make society better for my mom,” Crandall says. “It’s a great combination. They were the perfect parents together.” The award being in both of their names is a legacy and a reminder that there are many ways to be courageous.