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Robert Thornton Crews

Robert Thornton Crews
1933 - 1999

Medical Technology Program Director

Professor of Biology

Robert T. Crews was born in Pensacola, Florida on October 12, 1933, the youngest of eight children. His father, Thornton Crews, was a minister, and his mother, Teelie Shaefer Crews, a homemaker. Robert told of memories of his father being paid in eggs, fruits, and stalks of bananas (many of which they sold), and how proficient his mother was at killing the chickens for Sunday lunch. He knew the value of a dollar.

Dr. Crews graduated from Healdton High School in Healdton, Oklahoma, and received his B.S. from Auburn University in 1955. He interned at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas, Texas, and received his Medical Technology Certificate in 1956. Back in those days Robert's tuition for undergraduate studies was greatly reduced because he was a minister's son. Robert returned to Auburn to teach at Auburn University in the Medical Technology Program while pursuing his master's degree. There he met and married Hester Bickel (Crews). He worked full time and supported a family while pursuing his master's and doctoral degrees.

Robert and Hester have two children and five grandchildren. Their son, Kenneth B. Crews, is a Secret Service Special Agent. Kenneth and his family moved from Clarksville to Chattanooga in 1999. Robert and Hester's daughter, Caryl Crews Knolton, is a Master's prepared Speech Pathologist. Caryl and her family are in Germany where her husband, Major Davin Van Knolton, is serving in the military.

An article in the April 13, 1998, Insider (APSU), Crews said, "My high school annual says I want to be a medical technologist." Influenced by his brother-in-law, who worked in a medical lab, Crews said, "I thought, That's a keen job. It got in my mind that's what I wanted to be."

Dr. Crews' professional experience was all laboratory affiliated until his teaching appointment at Auburn University in 1959: Wadley Blood Bank, Dallas, Texas while interning at Baylor Medical Center; then Mobile County Hospital, Mobile, Alabama for nine months until Uncle Sam wanted him. While at Fort Ord, California, for two years, he worked a day shift at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Salinas, California, and worked the evening shift at U.S. Army Hospital, Fort Ord. Returning to civilian life, he worked at the University of Florida Teaching Hospital, Gainesville, Florida, where he was Serology Division Head. At Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, he was appointed Instructor in the Department of Laboratory Technology, his first teaching appointment. He served as Teaching Supervisor at the School of Medical Technology at St. Mary's in Knoxville, Tennessee, followed by an appointment as Education Coordinator & Administrative Technologist at Wesley Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas. He returned home to the South in 1971, to the University of Southern Mississippi where he spent 13 years in the Department of Medical Technology, working his way from Education Coordinator to Department Chair. In 1980, he completed his Ph.D. in Science Education, with a minor in Genetics, at the University of Southern Mississippi where he had established their University-based Medical Technology Program.

Dr. Crews moved to Austin Peay in 1981 to become Program Director, and to build a preprofessional program into a full, university based, 3+1 Program. One hundred twelve students graduated from the program under his leadership. After seventeen years of service to Austin Peay, Crews retired but continued to teach a class in Human Anatomy & Physiology at the APSU Fort Campbell Center. During his years in Clarksville, he was also a member and elder of the Warfield Boulevard Church of Christ.

Dr. Crews was instrumental in establishing of three chapters of Lambda Tau (the National Medical Technology Honor Society): in 1961 at Auburn University, then at the University of Southern Mississippi, and last at Austin Peay. In 1988, Dr. Crews committed to establishing a Medical Technology Scholarship at Austin Peay and in 1991 he encouraged the APSU Medical Technology Club (now Lambda Tau) to begin contributions to this fund. He matched the amount of the students' contributions each year for over a decade, including his first year of semi-retirement in 1999. At the June 4th pinning ceremony for the MT Class of 1999, the program faculty and the Biology chair were pleased to announce that the scholarship fund would henceforth be known as the Robert T. Crews Medical Technology Scholarship Fund. Dr. Crews, his wife, Hester, and their son, Kenneth, and his family were present for the dedication of the scholarship. Glinda Jenkins, Laboratory Manager of NorthCrest Medical Center and an Austin Peay alumna, led the fund-raising campaign in 1999 to increase the principal in the account. Contributions totaling more than $2700 were received from students, colleagues, and program alumni, increasing the principal in the scholarship to more than $10,000. As a result of this increase of the endowment, two modest scholarship awards were announced for the first time, to members of the class of 2000. More than fifty individuals donated to the scholarship to honor Robert T. Crews and to increase the principal to a size suitable for initiating awards from its earnings. Dr. Crews received a certificate which identified the donors at the ceremony.

With input from the student members of Lambda Tau, two awards were designated. The larger award, four fifths of the annual awards disbursement, is awarded to a student with financial need who has demonstrated high academic achievement. This award is identified as the Robert T. Crews Scholarship. The smaller award, one fifth of the annual awards disbursement, honors a student who has demonstrated leadership in Lambda Tau. This award is identified as the Lambda Tau Leadership Award. The two awards are presented at the annual MT student Thanksgiving luncheon.

Dr. Crews was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in August of 1999, and died at his home on December 21, 1999. He was buried in Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Clarksville. Dr. David Snyder, professor and chair of the department of biology said, "Bob Crews was one of the most diligent and capable members of the biology department faculty. He established our campus-based medical technology program, secured and maintained its accreditation, and oversaw our affiliations with area hospital clinical laboratories. When he retired in 1998, he left the program in good shape and in good hands. That is his legacy to us. Our memories of Bob Crews are good ones, and his infectious smile, wise counsel, and pleasant personality will be missed by all who were privileged to know him."

Memorial contributions may be made to the Robert T. Crews Medical Technology Scholarship at APSU, or to the Gateway Hospice of Clarksville, Tennessee. Make checks payable to the Robert T. Crews Medical Technology Scholarship and the mail contributions to Medical Technology Program Director, Campus Box 4668, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN 37044. (Contributions are tax deductible.)