Every story in Impact ultimately comes down to what motivates people to give to their alma mater, and Rob Crichton, C’71, has thought hard about his intentions.
“I’ve been a ‘steady Eddie’ for a long time,” says Crichton. It’s a claim that is backed up by the record, with giving that rises with Crichton’s age. And while the focus of his giving has changed over the years, the regularity and reliability of it has never waned.
Crichton explains it this way: “You will give to Sewanee because you loved your experience as a student and also because Sewanee continues to have a place in your life.” As a Nashville native and current resident, Crichton has been close enough to his alma mater to continue that living connection. “Over the years, if I was going through a rough patch, I could come to Sewanee,” he says. “I might visit an old professor or just sit at Green’s View and enjoy the scenery.”
Just in the past year, Crichton has made gifts to the 1899 football team film project, Unrivaled, YSR golf, and the William Ralston Listening Library. In keeping with the idea of a living connection, these gifts are animated by the personal. Of Unrivaled, Crichton has this to say: “It’s not just the project itself, though the story of the 1899 football team is certainly a Sewanee distinction. More than that, I was motivated by sympathy for the guys putting the film together.” (Of the six individuals on the production team, five are Sewanee alumni. See sewanee1899.org for more information). I’ve been involved with two or three projects like that, and I know it is difficult.” One of the projects was to document the life of Andrew Lytle, and Crichton was recruited to lead fundraising for the project. “I first wanted to know if Mr. Lytle wanted to do it, so I visited him in Monteagle, and we decided to go ahead.” The film, entitled “A Steady Sense of Time,” was directed by Vernon Taylor. He was also involved in the funding for the publication of Charles Harrison’s collection of essays titled Shakespeare’s Insistent Theme.
Crichton’s support of golf has a personal element as well, and he is motivated by the idea that Head Coach Nate Parrish is doing a good job and that the program’s people deserve support.
As for the William Ralston Listening Library, Crichton is obviously motivated by memories of listening to music with Ralston himself in Sewanee. “He had an amazing collection of music, all in impeccable condition, and he would invite us over to listen,” Crichton remembers. “I was and still am a jazz enthusiast, but I had a difficult time convincing Ralston to appreciate it.” One night, at Ralston’s suggestion, Crichton brought a new record, Dave Brubeck’s Brandenburg Gate: Revisited. “We listened to about half the first side,” Crichton says. “And he lifted the needle off and said, ‘That sounds like a sick Caruso.’”
Past, present, and future mesh in Crichton’s theory of giving. Memories of times and events in the past coupled with hopes for a better future energize his giving and his love for his alma mater.