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George Crandell

Associate dean
Graduate School

Originally from Savannah, Ga., George Crandell earned his bachelor's in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his master's and Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. Crandell's research interests include 20th century American literature, especially the drama of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. His publications include "Tennessee Williams: A Descriptive Bibliography" and "The Critical Response to Tennessee Williams." He recently completed another book, "Arthur Miller: A Descriptive Bibliography," to be published by Oak Knoll Press soon. He is currently the associate dean of the Graduate School.

1. You just returned from an expedition to Mount McKinley. How was the journey?

Denali tested the limits of my endurance and patience. Temperatures ranged from a high of about 25 degrees to a low of 15 below zero, with winds as high as 60 mph. I shared a tent with two smelly strangers, who like me, neither shaved nor showered for the three weeks of our summer vacation. We shared stories as we ate freeze-dried food and melted snow to drink. We fell into and pulled each other out of bottomless crevasses, and rationed our toilet paper. We were rewarded with remarkable views of winding glaciers and craggy peaks. More than once, we heard the distant thunder of an avalanche, then turned to see the plume of snow marking the abrupt end of the collapse. All of this is part of the fun of mountain climbing - accepting a challenge, experiencing what only a small number of people ever attempt, and sometimes being rewarded with a summit. On this trip, high winds and heavy snows kept our group (nine climbers and three guides) from reaching Denali's peak, but we all returned home safely - the most important goal of every mountain climber.

2. What other peaks have you scaled, and which ones were most memorable?

Since I began mountain climbing in 2006, I've reached the summits of three peaks in the U.S. over 14,000 feet: Mount Elbert and Mount Massive in Colorado, and Mount Ranier in Washington. Two years after getting started, I set as my goal to climb to the highest point in each of the 50 U.S. states. So far, I've reached the top of 40 states. My trip to New England in the summer of 2010 was especially challenging, because I climbed Mount Marcy (New York), Mount Washington (New Hampshire), Mount Mansfield (Vermont) and Katahdin (Maine) all within the space of five days. Most memorable of all, however, was my trip to Tanzania in 2007, where I successfully reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet).

3. What in your background prepared you for, or interested you in, mountain climbing?

Mountain climbing is a relatively new sport for me, so I had to prepare anew for the long hours of hiking, snowshoeing, climbing and carrying heavy loads. But endurance sports, the Tour de France, for instance, have always appealed to me. After my sophomore year in college, I bicycled from Virginia to Oregon, and then pedaled down the California coast to San Francisco, about 3,400 miles in 49 days. I've always thought that experience was good preparation for the grueling, seven-year ordeal that faculty go through to get tenure.

4. Coming back to Auburn University, what brought you from the English department to the Graduate School?

Many of us who begin our careers as teachers aim to help students become independent thinkers and learners. When I moved to the Graduate School from the English Department, I aimed to do the same thing, only serving a broader group of students and working with faculty from many different disciplines to achieve the same goal. In my role as associate dean, it has been especially rewarding to see students succeed at a high level and to have the opportunity to recognize graduate students for their academic achievements with awards, such as the newly created Distinguished Dissertation Awards.

5. What has been the most surprising part of working with the Graduate School?

When I first started working in Hargis Hall, I was surprised to be greeted each morning by a number of feral cats lurking in the bushes outside of the building. A few weeks later, when one of the staff members brought in a large bag of cat food, I realized that she'd been feeding the cats. It just goes to show that if you need help, and you come to Hargis Hall, the Graduate School staff will take good care of you.

Jul. 25, 2011