Robin Crawford, Former Instructor in History, Passes Away at 76

Robin Crawford, former Instructor in History, passed away at age 76 on October 22 after a long battle with leukemia. In 1971, Crawford arrived on campus to serve as Dean and Director of Admission for Summer Session and as an Instructor in History. During his 32-year-long tenure at Andover, Crawford also served as Director of the College Counseling Office and faculty advisor to the Philomathean Society. Marcelle Doheny, Instructor in History, said, “He was a very good colleague to me, but more importantly, he was my friend. We just met over the summer and had coffee, and I’m so glad we did. He was still recommending books to me [after he retired], talking to me about ideas, talking to me about politics and school and history. It was the same Robin. I will miss him very, very much.” Dr. Carol Israel, a Graham House Counselor and Instructor in Psychology, said, “He taught me the word ‘curmudgeon.’ Before I came to Andover, I had never heard of that word. Who uses that word? And I didn’t know what it meant until I came here, and that was him. He was a curmudgeon: cranky, stern, firm, but with an absolute heart of gold.” Elisabeth Tully, Director of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), who worked with Crawford as an advisor to the Philomathean Society, said that, despite Crawford’s “gruff” approach to teaching, he inspired and connected with students. “He could be scary… but he could do it in such a way that kids would not feel devastated when he yelled at them. They would feel like, ‘I [have] to do better than this,’” said Tully. “He walked that fine line between being harsh but ultimately supportive at the same time, saying, ‘I believe in you. I know that you can get this. You just have [to] work a little harder.’ That’s really excellent teaching,” she continued. Doheny said she best remembers Crawford’s sense of humor, his big personality and the way he laughed out loud with his whole body. She also recalled Crawford’s passion for the subject of history, saying that he influenced his students through his own great enthusiasm. “He was one of those guys who had a great passion for history — just loved the subject. He had very high standards for the students and for himself, and he had a real following [of students]. Many students just really clicked with him and loved his class,” said Doheny. “When he died, I realized that there are only maybe four of us [currently] in the [Department of History] that worked with him, which really struck me quite forcibly because he was so larger than life. It seems so strange to me that so many of my colleagues don’t know who he was. He was such a force of nature that it seemed odd that other people wouldn’t remember that,” she continued. Israel said that, although she and Crawford taught in vastly different fields of history and psychology, Crawford’s passion for ideas drew them together. “He was one of the smartest people that I knew. He loved ideas, so he was wonderful to talk to. He was like an intellectual’s intellectual. He loved ideas in all sorts of fields. He was in history, I’m in psychology, and he was just as interested in the ideas in my field as he was in his,” Israel said. In addition to maintaining deep connections with his students, Mary Mulligan, Instructor in History and a former colleague of Crawford, said that Crawford was deeply devoted to his family, calling him a “family man.” “Anytime we’d get talking about his children or my children, he was just transformed. He loved family. He kept that gruff exterior, but what anyone who knew him realized pretty early on was that, inside, he was a very sensitive, loving guy,” Mulligan said. After retiring, Crawford briefly moved to Maine before moving to Portland, OR, where he lived with his daughter, Elizabeth, and his grandson, Kai Gilmore. According to Tully, Crawford became a main caretaker of Gilmore, and the two spent much of their time together. During Crawford’s last year at Andover, his wife, Katie Crawford, was diagnosed with cancer. She died shortly after he retired, and he endowed a fund in her honor at the OWHL to purchase children’s books, according to Tully. “We continue to buy books that are for Katie Crawford. That was a fund that he set up because both of them loved libraries, reading and the life of the mind,” said Tully. According to an obituary published on the website of Holman’s Funeral Service, memorial donations in honor of Crawford may be made to the Kathryn S. Crawford fund for children’s books at the OWHL. A memorial service honoring Crawford will be held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Waban, Mass., on December 13.