In Memoriam: Donald Crowe

Donald Warren Crowe, 94, passed away on July 4, 2022 in Madison, Wisconsin. He was born October 28, 1927 in Lincoln, Nebraska to Lawrence and Vera (Pereau) Crowe.

Donald was a distinguished professor of mathematics at UW-Madison from 1962 through 1998. As a geometer specializing in the study of symmetry and patterns in primitive art he had the opportunity to bring artists and scientists together in a unique and rewarding collaboration. His work was Internationally recognized and allowed him to travel extensively worldwide and share ideas with some of the best minds in his field of study.

He co-authored three books and published many articles and papers over his career. While UW-Madison was his home-base, his love of travel also led him to professional positions in such places as Nigeria, Hungary, Australia, England, Tonga, Ghana, and Canada.

Donald remained intellectually active throughout his life, always seeking out new knowledge and understanding of the world around him. He was keenly interested in world politics and kept abreast of current world events.  He took pleasure in meeting new people and enjoyed engaging in thoughtful conversation on almost any topic.

He and his wife, Mary, traveled extensively and shared many adventures, traveling the back roads so as to better understand the lands they visited.  After retirement they spent the winters in the Anza Borrego Desert of California, a region that fascinated Donald and of which he was very fond.

Donald developed many meaningful friendships with his colleagues and students at the UW Math Department. Of special importance was his enduring friendship with his dear friend Steve Bauman. In recent years the weekly “Old Guys” luncheon gatherings with his Math Department colleagues became an important part of his life.

Donald was active with the Bridges Organization, which oversees the annual Bridges conference on mathematical connections in art, music, architecture, and culture. He was honored to have his work included in these proceedings and greatly enjoyed attending these conferences, which were held at various locations around the globe.

Donald was an avid hiker and bicyclist and loved the outdoors. He spent many enjoyable hours studying the stars through his home telescope before losing most of his eyesight, and he was riding his bicycle until just months before his death. He was a lifelong gardener and continued to enjoy his garden in his later years, listening to and identifying the birdsongs of the many birds that visited his birdfeeders and flowers. He especially loved Hummingbirds, and always included plants to attract those birds.

He was truly an exceptional person, admired and respected by all who knew him. He will be deeply missed.

Donald is survived by his wife, Mary Crowe, his three daughters Helen (Lars) Crowe-Blomgren of Stockholm, Sweden, Zannah (Bob) Crowe of West Bend, Wisconsin & Laila Crowe of Madison, Wisconsin, two sons Brendan (Michelle) Ozanne of Carlsbad, California & Colin (Lindsey) Ozanne of Buffalo, New York and his sister Barbara (Don) Reeves of Oberlin, Ohio. He also leaves behind 9 beloved grandchildren and one brand new great-grandchild.

The family would be deeply grateful if you would share your memories of Donald on his tribute wall.

In lieu of flowers a donation to your favorite charity is appreciated.



Donald had composed a timeline of the highlights of his life, shared here:

Born October 28, 1927 to Lawrence Crowe & Vera Crowe (nee Pereau) in Lincoln, Nebraska

1945 Graduated Northeast High in Lincoln Nebraska

Undergraduate studies at University of Nebraska & University of Minnesota. Majoring in math, physics and philosophy.

Master’s degree from University of Nebraska

Studied at Ann Arbor, Michigan 1951-1955

Married Marilyn Yvonne Alger 1953

Helen Marya Crowe (daughter) born August 6, 1957 in Ann Arbor

1955-1957 Instructor at British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

1959 PhD in Mathematics from University of Toronto, studying under Donald Coxeter

1959-1962 Visiting professorship at University College, Ibadan, Nigeria

Zannah Crowe (daughter) born April 5, 1961

1962 Began professorship at UW-Madison (where he taught through 1998)

Laila Kathleen Crowe (daughter) born February 25, 1963

1966 teaching in Budapest, Hungary as first in a mathematician teaching exchange program

1969 Excursions in Mathematics published (republished in 2000) co-authored with Mike Bleicher & Anatole Beck

1976 teaching position in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada

1978 Honorary visiting professorship at Cal State in Chico, California

November 18, 1979 married Mary Margaret McDonough

1988 Symmetries of Culture published (reprinted 2021) co-authored with Dorothy Washburn

Retired from teaching at UW-Madison officially in 1993, actually taught through spring of 1998

May, 1999 Organized (with Dorothy Washburn) a Symmetries of Pattered Textiles workshop at UW-Madison*

*Second conference May, 2000 organized by Steve Bauman & Dorothy Washburn in honor of Donald Crowe. Attended by Donald Coxeter.

2004 Symmetry Comes of Age published. Co-authored with Dorothy Washburn

July 4, 2022 Donald departed this life at his home, surrounded by loving support. In his final weeks he visited with friends and family and reflected on the many blessings of his long life (while still expressing a desire for “a few more years”). His was a life well lived.


Link to Obit: