Patricia Jones Crawford

Patricia Jones Crawford

Patricia Jones Crawford has always been a trailblazer. During her junior year of high school in South Carolina, she chose to attend an all-white school. When it came time for college, she bucked the family tradition of going to Tuskegee Institute, as her six older siblings had done, and headed for Los Angeles. Now a senior executive for Wells Fargo and a member of the Iowa Transportation Commission, she not only helps map the future of her company, but also the transportation infrastructure of her state.

Her master’s degree in planning from the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development provided invaluable tools in navigating her career path. After earning her B.S. in psychology and philosophy at UCLA, Crawford knew she wanted an advanced degree that would open new frontiers. “I thought public administration and planning would be a good field for me,” she says. “It’s a multidisciplinary field that prepares you to work in a lot of different arenas and a lot of different careers.”

Married just two days after graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C., with her husband, James Crawford. She landed a job with the National Capital Planning Commission as an urban planner. Two years later, she was promoted to director of environmental planning, a position she held for eight years.

“It was an exciting time to be in Washington,” she says. “Planning and development in the city were just booming in those years.”

On top of her day job, she taught planning to graduate students at Howard University for four years as an adjunct professor. Meanwhile, her husband took a position in the Carter administration, working for Patricia Harris, the Health and Human Services secretary. When Reagan was elected, the Crawfords left D.C., eventually settling in Des Moines, Iowa, where they have resided for the past 25 years. There they raised their son, Courtney, who recently graduated from medical school.

After spending 10 years working for Meredith Corporation – the Better Homes and Gardens publisher headquartered in Des Moines – she decided to change careers. She introduced herself to the president of Norwest Bank by telling him she knew nothing about banking. “I knew I had a set of skills that were easily transferable – the ability to manage, lead and strategize,” she recalls. “He told me he could teach me banking, but he couldn’t teach the skills I already had.”

Crawford has been with the company for 11 years and took part in the transition when Norwest acquired Wells Fargo, retaining the better-known name. “A lot of people don’t know it was Norwest that purchased big bad Wells Fargo and made it into the company it is today,” she quips. During her tenure, she has managed several banks, served as director of marketing for the Midwest region and now is senior vice president and manager of corporate marketing for the African-American initiative, part of the Diverse Growth Segments group.

She is also in her second four-year term with the seven-member Iowa Transportation Commission, which is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. “You have to be strategic and deliberate in your decision-making,” she says of the commission’s work. “It might take eight or 12 years from the time you approve a new road to the start of construction. You have to put on your long-term hat and best projection skills to serve the needs of the citizenry 20 to 25 years out.”

Having lived in the South, the West, the East and the Midwest, and having worked in so many interesting and varied positions, Crawford adapts well to change. While her USC degree helped her with many transitions, it was transferring to an all-white high school that proved defining. “I had to deal with more than just school work,” recalls Crawford, who graduated third in her class. “There were people who didn’t want me there. I never regretted my decision, though. I learned there wasn’t much I couldn’t do, no experience I couldn’t handle.

She also helped light the path for others, including her nephew, Kevin Wise, who was valedictorian of his class at the same high school and also followed his aunt to USC, where he earned his engineering degree.

Now Crawford has her sights set on a different horizon. She and her husband plan to retire in five years and return to the South. “I’m going to work on my golf game,” she says. “I have a decent game now, but it will get really good after I retire.”