Emeritus Professor Crump passes, left lasting chemistry legacy

Emeritus professor of chemistry Jack Crump passed away Feb. 9 in Chelsea, age 91. He is survived by his wife, Beverley, four children including Stephen, ’81, and three grandchildren.

March 1, 2023

In 1962, Crump walked away from a lucrative career with Dow Chemical in order to spend the next 35 years as a member of Albion’s faculty. Despite his background as a research chemist, Crump embraced the liberal arts as a professor and for his own personal joy.

“We were very social in the department, but Jack’s best friends on the faculty were Morrie Branch (economics), Jack Padgett (philosophy) and Johan Stohl (religious studies),” said emeritus professor of chemistry Dennis Gaswick.

Gaswick looked to Crump as a personal mentor and notes their entire department thrived under Jack’s leadership and vision.

“Jack enjoyed teaching our course for non-chemistry majors. He thought they should have a lab experience, but he knew these students didn’t need a weekly four-hour lab,” Gaswick recalled. “He developed microchemistry kits so the students could do experiments on their desks, right in class.”

Crump (along with Gaswick and the late emeritus professor Dan Steffenson) also wrote an innovative textbook specifically designed for Albion’s general chemistry instruction. “We were frustrated with the books we were using, so we decided to write our own,” Gaswick explained. English professor Jim Cook helped the group with best-practice pedagogy, and Albion’s students also got a much more affordable textbook.

“It turned out to be harder than we thought,” said Gaswick. “But it was good for the students.”

Crump also encouraged Gaswick to develop research projects for chemistry majors – an undertaking that evolved into the College’s current Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (FURSCA).

Gaswick said that Crump was also a “coffee drinker’s coffee drinker.”

“We had the copier and a coffee maker, so Chemistry was a popular place,” said Gaswick. “Jack used the brewed coffee to make instant coffee. We all drank a lot of coffee, but not like Jack.”

“I came to Albion a disciplined athlete but not a disciplined scholar,” said Jim Wilson, ’77, founder of Albion’s Lisa and James Wilson Institute for Medicine. “Jack ‘turned the light on’ for me. If I did well on the first test in a course, he made sure the second one was harder. He made me one of the first chemistry teaching assistants. That pushing allowed me to realize the potential I didn’t know I had.”

During his senior year, Wilson was accepted into several of the country’s most prestigious graduate programs in chemistry. With Crump’s support, Wilson ended up turning them all down – in order to pursue a relatively new M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan.

“I’m sure there was a part of Jack that would have loved for me to go to Harvard and maybe become a world-class chemist,” says Wilson. “Jack didn’t know the world of medical research, but he heard me and showed his confidence that I could take this uncharted path.  That conversation changed my life.”

”Once, Jack jokingly verified the chirality of a molecular structure by pretending to draw it on the blackboard from the other side of the wall,” said Art Bragg, ’99, a chemistry professor at Johns Hopkins University.

While admiring Crump’s skill in the classroom, however, Bragg notes that he gained even more from Crump’s role as his academic advisor.

“Jack pushed me to broaden my horizons beyond physical sciences, resist the temptation to overspecialize, and take advantage of the liberal arts experience,” Bragg said. “Now I offer his wisdom to my own advisees.”

“When I was a senior in high school, I told Jack that I wanted to be a chemistry major and do a semester abroad, then work in the pharmaceutical industry,” said Barbara Weiskittel, ’83, who has spent a career in pharmaceutical marketing and physician education.

Following Crump’s professional advice and personal example, Weiskittel signed on with two faculty mentors: Crump and religious studies professor Frank Frick. Weiskittel also contemplates that Crump’s personal journey may have influenced her decision to support Albion’s Big Read and other youth-based programs in the community.

“Jack came from industry and then decided that he wanted to give back by teaching others. I think about that,” she said. “Jack didn’t think about what he would do first, and then give. What he did was the gift.

The beauty of the Albion College experience is that all the people are there to support you, and there may be one or two that set you up for success for the rest of your life,” Weiskittel reflected. “I remember many times sitting in Jack’s office and feeling like that was happening for me.”