If you’ve traveled abroad, the atmosphere of Kurt Crawford’s office might remind you of the back alleys of old-world Europe. If you find your way to the Rathskeller in the basement of the Haggarty Student Center, walk beyond the mail room and out onto the loading docs, make a left and walk all the way back into the facilities department. You’ll find it.
It’s small. It’s welcoming. It’s standing room only.
Kurt Crawford sits here behind a large desk that is invisible beneath piles of paperwork, labels, photographs and a couple renegade candies. He is surrounded, as one might expect, by memorabilia collected throughout his 31 years of service at the University of Dallas. The walls house a large collection of fish paraphernalia: a fish clock, a fish calendar, a couple mounted fish, even one of those fake fish that sing when you push the button.
Crawford’s happy countenance invites you to stay a while and ask him questions. He’s got stories to last days.
“Imagine you’re walking on the Mall,” Crawford said. “Gorman Lecture Hall was the only building.”
It’s difficult for current students and perhaps even faculty to imagine the university any different than it is at present. Crawford, however, has been watching as the school has developed for the past 31 years, and he can remember the days when the New Dorm wasn’t necessary and the Science Building was just a field through which you occasionally happened to walk.
Crawford came to the University of Dallas to work with his father when he was 16. He’s been here since then.
“I was raised here,” he said. “In fact, I had more mamas and daddies than anybody I know.”
Crawford happily recounts a long list of past professors and staff to whom he attributes much of his formation. Included among this list are Glen Thurow and Nettie Baker.
Baker laughed affectionately when asked just how long she has known Crawford. “Well,” she said, “I’ve been here for 43 years. So I’ve known him since he got here.”
“He has always been courteous, always been a gentleman, and always been very kind and cooperative with the staff here at the library,” Baker said in her slow Southern drawl.
Baker is the associate director of the library, and she makes certain to acknowledge the important role Crawford plays in what might seem like an unlikely place.
“One of the main things he helps us with are the large loads of books. When we get books donated to the library, someone has to go and pick them up.”
In comes Crawford.
“He always makes sure he has the correct information and knows just where everything is,” Baker said. “Sometimes the trips aren’t short, either. Occasionally he has to travel outside of Irving.”
Crawford has had the same routine for quite a while, and it works.
“First thing I do in the morning is make sure that everyone is here and gets their assignments for the day,” he said.
He then checks the board room and conference room to make sure they’re ready if need be. There’s a break at 10 a.m. for a banana, and the day doesn’t end until everything is done.
“We aren’t always here real late,” Crawford said, “but on nights like Groundhog, we’re here until midnight sometimes.”
There is, of course, protocol for booking Crawford and his team, should you be looking to organize anything on campus.
“We try to give everyone just what they want regardless of when they ask, but I have to ask my two questions first: ‘Will it work?’ ‘Is it safe?’”
Kelly O’Neal, the Conferencing and Events Coordinator, has worked closely with Crawford for the past 13 years and was quick to point out, “He’s an integral part of my ability to provide service to clients on and off campus. He helps me do my job. From day one he’s been helpful. He guided me on how to connect with people on campus.”
When asked about Crawford’s disposition, O’Neal laughed and said, “I know he wouldn’t mind me saying he’s a little gruff – a no-nonsense man. But he adopted me as his little sister. I can go to him with my problems.”
Crawford is close to many of those with whom he works, O’Neal said. “It’s a good community, and he takes care of his employees. He has a lunch every couple months so that they can all breathe a little.
It’s all food that they cook, and he sure does cook a mean rib.”
When it comes to annual events on campus, Crawford admitted that he has a couple favorites, including the International Food Fest and Charity Week. However, when it comes to choosing one among many, Crawford had no qualms setting one above the rest.
“I love graduation in May, especially the Mass,” he said.
Crawford begins the morning-of by checking the weather at 6:30 a.m. to decide the location of the event. Should the forecast be gloomy, the celebration is moved inside to the gym. Like Groundhog, he works until the event is finished, suffering in the heat beside those with caps and gowns.
“I’m really proud of that one,” Crawford said with a smile.
Crawford got a bit nostalgic as he flipped through the pages of an old yearbook. “I have too much passion for this place. I really do,” he said. He’s been here a long time and admits he can’t imagine being anywhere else.
“I had plans for this place. I still do.”
Crawford has been a constant presence on this campus for 31 years, and he anticipates being here at least for another 20. So, if you find yourself wandering on campus some afternoon, get lost in his neck of the woods and stop by his office, even if it’s just to say a quick “hello.” You won’t regret it. Perhaps you’ll even get a story.
Dana Thompson wrote this article for the magazine class at UD.