Ron Crouch leaving Kentucky State Data Center

He's 62, weighs 285 pounds, stands 5-foot-10, gives 150 speeches a year and can rattle off important numbers faster than most of his 4.1 million fellow Kentuckians.

Ron Crouch, executive director of the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville, is leaving his post May 29.

"I've reached that point where I'd rather be doing something else," Crouch said in a telephone interview Sunday.

"It's a voluntary departure, but resources at U of L, like at other state institutions of higher learning, are being cut. I see the handwriting on the wall, so I figure it's time to do something else —like consulting, speaking throughout the country and analyzing data for other states.

"I may be retiring from U of L, but I'm retooling for other tasks."

For nearly 21 years, Crouch has informed Kentuckians of trends in population, education, economic development, employment, income and poverty.

The data center is a cooperative effort between state and federal government and acts as an information clearinghouse for the Census Bureau and other information sources.

When Crouch began his work there, , the center had five staffers. That has dwindled to two, and its budget, which Crouch says was about $441,000 a few years ago, has dropped in recent years.

Crouch is more than a fellow with a lot of numbers ricocheting in his head, says journalist Al Smith of Lexington, who sometimes had Crouch as a guest when he hosted "Comment on Kentucky," a public affairs show on the Kentucky Educational Television network.

"Ron Crouch is a numbers guy with a conscience," Smith said. "He not only knows the costs of various trends, he knows their value.

"I can think of only a few like Ron Crouch, who has contributed so much to this state in the understanding of socioeconomic changes and their implications."

Smith noted that Crouch does not mince words—or numbers.

He was at the forefront of "speaking out against the phobia of immigration in this state and telling us how it would enrich our state by providing young workers who would contribute to our social programs while many of us grew old," Smith said.

Crouch told a state legislative committee last year that without immigration Kentucky would lose population in the not-too-distant future and the state's economy would be at risk because elderly Kentuckians will outnumber those still working.

"The problem is not too much illegal immigration. It's too little legal immigration," he said, suggesting to several incredulous legislators that Kentucky should provide in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants.

"Ron Crouch has had incredible exposure and outreach with his work," said Robert Sexton of Lexington, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and a board member of the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center.

"If you do public policy in this state, then you have worked with Ron Crouch. He gives you the numbers and then is straightforward with what he thinks they mean."

Statistics can be boring, said John Chowning of Campbellsville, vice chair of the research center, but "Ron Crouch gives expressions to numbers. He's a pioneer in helping policy boards in Kentucky."

Crouch fell in love with numbers at an early age.

As a 12-year-old growing up on Kentucky farms, he kept books for his relatives on which cows were the most productive.

Today he operates a beef cattle farm in Bullitt County where he was raised after his freshman year in high school. He says it has 22 cows, one bull and 16 calves.

Crouch's head and background contain more than figures.

He has three Master's degrees, 30 hours toward a doctorate and stints as a state social worker, family and children's therapist, staffer for the state Legislative Research Commission's health and welfare committee, Metro United Way planning and research director and graduate school instructor.

He has served on public boards and has received honors from numerous agencies. He has spoken in 27 states in the last three years and is a prolific writer. He is thinking about writing a book titled, "The History of the Future."

Besides the need for more legal immigration in this country, he has been vocal about the widening gap between rich and poor in this country.

"I have no problem with President Obama saying we need to spread the wealth around," Crouch said.

He offers numbers to back up his position: "Since the days of President Reagan in the 1980s, 80 percent of the growth in income in this country has gone to the top 1 percent of the richest people."