Anna Erskine Crouse, who served on Juilliard’s board for 27 years before becoming a trustee emerita, died at the age of 97 on December 29. “Anna was a person of great grace, dignity, wit, and determination,” President Joseph W. Polisi told The Journal. “She was an active supporter of Juilliard’s Drama Division and was instrumental in establishing dramatic studies as an integral part of the School.”
While Crouse joined the board in 1974, her relationship with Juilliard began much earlier. Born January 29, 1916, she was the daughter of Pauline Ives Erskine and John Erskine, who was the first president of the Juilliard School of Music, which was established when the Institute of Musical Art and the Juilliard Graduate School merged. Erskine served as Juilliard’s president from 1928 until 1937, though he also continued to teach at Columbia University, where he created the storied General Honors course.
Crouse grew up in Manhattan and studied voice with Florence Page Kimball, who served on the Juilliard voice faculty from 1927 to 1975, and piano with Charlotte Elsheimer, a pupil of Ernest Hutcheson, Juilliard’s first dean and second president (1937-45). Crouse graduated from Horace Mann High School and started to attend Barnard College but left to pursue a career in acting. She landed a few Broadway roles and then a job that would cement her role in the theater world—she started working for the writing and producing team of Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay, whose hits included Life With Father and Anything Goes. A few years later she married Crouse, who died in 1966. Their children Timothy Crouse, an author, and Lindsay Crouse, an actress, survive her as do her granddaughters, Willa Ives Mamet, a photographer, and Zosia Mamet, an actress who’s currently in the television series Girls. Anna Crouse was also married to George Murch from 1978 until his death, in 1987.
In 1973, after her son, Timothy, wrote the acclaimed Nixon campaign saga The Boys on the Bus, Anna Crouse told a New York Post reporter, “I spent my early years known as John Erskine’s daughter, my married years as Russel Crouse’s wife—and I’m now known as Timothy Crouse’s mother.” But Crouse, who also cowrote two children’s books with her first husband, contributed immeasurably to New York City’s cultural life. In addition to her invaluable work at Juilliard, as the longtime president of the Theater Development Fund, she was key in the establishment of discount ticket booths (TKTS) in Times Square and elsewhere. She also led the charge in the rebirth of Lincoln Center Theater in the 1980s.