Campus community remembers David Crawford

By Alexandra Harvey |
Photo by Alexandra Harvey

Although Jayne Moon had only known Dr. David Crawford for two months, she felt blessed to have met him.

While speaking at Crawford’s memorial, Moon recounted her first meeting with Crawford, and how he seemed almost scared and nervous when Moon went to introduce herself as his neighbor. To her surprise, Crawford came over the very next day with cookies, coffee and conversation.

“He was a sweet and genuine person,” Moon said. “Modest, though he had all this exceptional talent.”

Though Crawford was often described as an intensely private man, there were few empty seats at the memorial, which took place Wednesday in the Flagler Room. The fact that Crawford was well liked and admired in his short time at Flagler was shown through the many faculty and students who came to pay their respects.

In speaking with Crawford’s mother, Beverly, Associate Dean Yvan Kelly found out some rather surprising things about the professor.

“He loved skateboarding and Vans sneakers, and was an accomplished guitar player,” Kelly said. “His favorite song to play was Van Halen’s Jump, and he was even in a band in high school where he earned the nickname, ‘D.C. Nilla Wafa.'”

Born in California, Crawford showed his artistic talent at an early age, even building elaborate sculptures out of toothpicks. Continuing in this artistic vein, he went on to receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art. After college, he spent time working for station WGBH Boston, and taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Pratt Institute.

Eventually, deciding that the field of graphic design was becoming an “arms race,” Crawford went to Göteborg University in Sweden to receive his doctorate.

Crawford’s mother related to Kelly how her son was always drawn to what was most innovative in graphic design.

“Whatever was cutting edge in his field, that’s where he was, that’s what he wanted to be doing,” Kelly said.

Crawford specialized in motion graphics, and received many prestigious honors and awards for his works.

In addressing Crawford’s manner of death, Kelly spoke of the battles we all fight against our personal demons.

“[Crawford] sadly fought forces behind closed doors until, alas he could do so no more,” Kelly said.

Dr. Alan Woolfolk, dean of academic affairs, spoke of his first meeting with Crawford back in June when he was interviewing for a position at Flagler. Woolfolk said he was prepared to speak with an accomplished artist and well-educated professor, but was not prepared for the “keen intellect, depth and sensitivity” Crawford exhibited.

“We are left with the incomprehensible death of a teacher and colleague we had only begun to know, and who had only begun to forge his narrative here at Flagler,” Woolfolk said.

Professor Patrick Moser, department chair and associate professor in the art department, believed that Crawford’s work was the “best account of who he was.”

Before Crawford was even on staff, Moser said he was able to take a look at Crawford’s Stop-Motion studies. These essentially involved recording strangers’ behavior in public places — subways, for example — in order to get their reactions when they finally noticed Dr. Crawford filming them.

“I knew right from there we had a real artist,” Moser said.

Moser marked them as “compelling studies of human behavior,” that examined the boundary between public and private, but said he sees the work differently now.

“I see the man behind the camera,” Moser said. “The man who so often intentionally played the role of the stranger.”

While working in the art department, Moser noted that Crawford was always eager to please, and really strove to connect with the students. Something Crawford continually stressed was the idea of being able to give back.

“Amongst confusion and pain is some clarity,” Moser said. “And our task is now moving forward, without diminishing his personal pain, so that the narrative will continue. To celebrate his life by experiencing and growing through this.”

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