Brian Crispell is leading His way

April 22, 2011

“Teaching is more than just about doing a job,” says Dr. Brian Crispell. “Teaching is about having an impact.”

Crispell ought to know. His impact at Florida College is unmistakable, as a history professor since 2000, and as dean of student affairs since 2009. He has been voted the top lecturer by students in six of his ten years teaching, and has inspired numerous students to pursue further education and even careers in history. His passion for the subject is palpable and infectious, and one can scarcely talk to him without hearing a reference to some historical figure or event.

Crispell’s own history began in western New York state (“in the heart of cabbage country…where there are apple orchards and cherry orchards and not much else”). His father left a job at Kodak to start his own hardware store, and from age six to eighteen Crispell grew up in an apartment over the store.

“It was a different time,” he says, recalling riding his bicycle through the countryside, grilling out on the back porch and sleeping outside in the summer, and burning wood fires in the winter. The fourth of five children, Crispell worked behind the counter and unloading trucks at the hardware store. Because there was “nothing to spend money on out there,” his parents bought him dry roasted peanuts as payment. “They used to joke that I worked for peanuts,” he laughs, “and they were largely right.”

Within weeks of graduating high school, Crispell joined the Air Force. A college education wasn’t seen as a necessity at the time (“There will always be manufacturing jobs,” his dad assured him), and the military seemed a natural choice. During his service, Crispell’s burgeoning interest in history was nurtured by his proximity to iconic locations and the college courses he took on base. Little did he know that he, too, was making history—helping build up armed forces during the Cold War, which contributed to the end of the Soviet regime.

Out of the Air Force, he moved to Tallahassee, Fla., to finish his undergraduate work in history. While working behind the counter of a Piggly Wiggly, he met his future wife. A fairly new Christian herself, Jean played a large role in Crispell’s conversion, and the two were married on February 3, 1990. Two days later, Crispell stood in front of his first classroom as a teacher.

A master’s degree, doctorate, and three children later, Crispell came to Florida College to occupy the absence of retiring professor Almon Williams. Neither Crispell nor his wife had attended FC, and he didn’t know a single person when he stepped onto campus. They were drawn to the Tampa area for the spiritual environment it would provide for their young kids, and through the school’s touring groups they were familiar (and impressed) with the caliber of its students. Ultimately, Crispell says, coming to FC was all about the people.

“When I came down in early 2000 to look at the school,” he recounts, “President Caldwell (at the time) spoke to me about the school and how much it meant to him, and there were tears in his eyes. I talked with the faculty, and they obviously had a passion for teaching and loved what they did, and it was more than just about doing the job.”

That passion, combined with the incomparable setting of a “community of Christian scholars,” is what has kept Crispell in Temple Terrace all these years. “You realize that there are things that go deeper and mean more than just your academic subject,” he says. “And that’s not something you’re going to get everywhere. What we’ve got is pretty special.”

Wherever you find Dr. Crispell—whether in the classroom, the office, or the cafeteria—you will surely find him leading His way.