It's been 40 years since Daniel Crowder helped change the landscape of education in the Mountain State as one of West Virginia Northern Community College's founding fathers. Typical of a proud parent, the urge to do what he can to help his offspring has never left him.
Crowder, WVNCC's founding president, has kept busy in recent months by penning two books - "The Idea of Divinity" and "The Idea of a Mission: The Challenge and Response of a Purpose-Driven Life."
Like his three previous books, proceeds from volumes sold in WVNCC's service area will benefit the college's Robert LaFollette Scholarship Fund, which Crowder established during his presidency in honor of a professor who left a lasting impression on him.
All of Crowder's works revolve around a central theme of "ideas" - that from the beginning of human existence, people have behaved in accordance with what they believe.
"All societies have a basic core of values, and that holds them together as a people," said Crowder. "We are no exception - even the conservatives and liberals agree on the fundamental, foundational ideas on which this country is based."
The thesis of "The Idea of Divinity," Crowder said, is that all societies establish a faith in a higher power. It traces religion through thousands of years from ancient civilizations that worshipped many gods through the evolution of monotheism, belief in one supreme being, in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions.
"The Idea of a Mission," Crowder said, is the result of a manuscript he wrote while a student at Ball State University in the 1950s. It's a departure from his other books in that it is a work of fiction, but one that Crowder said carries a message "that war doesn't solve anything."
The story is set in the post-World War II era and follows a young congressman from West Virginia as he is sent to a conference in Paris to help avoid a potentially catastrophic conflict as the Cold War heats up. As he becomes increasingly consumed with his mission, the pressure begins to exert its toll on his marriage and personal life.
Crowder said he's working on the next installment in his "ideas" series - "The Idea of Morality" - which he expects to release early next year. This volume, he said, will examine how societies use morality to promote their values as well as public education's abandonment of what once was viewed as a responsibility to teach those values in addition to the daily curriculum.
When Crowder first began his teaching career in 1957, he said, each day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer. While he doesn't advocate public schools indoctrinating students with a particular religion, he believes more needs to be done to "teach the common, core values that we all believe in."
"Here lately, we've gone so far to the other extreme. ... I believe in the separation of church and state, but I think we've reacted so strongly here of late to any teachings at all on morality in the public sector.
"Most of the kids locked up in jail now didn't get any moral instruction from anywhere. ... We don't teach anything anymore in school - and that's tragic, I think," Crowder said.
Crowder, 85, is retired and lives near Orlando with his wife Wreatha. In addition to his work at WVNCC, he has held various teaching and administrative positions in the Florida and California public school systems and other institutions of higher learning in West Virginia and Florida during a 40-plus-year career as an educator.
Copies of Crowder's books can be purchased at WVNCC's downtown Wheeling campus.