December 06, 2018
In the 1950s, Dr. Robert Crigler set off to be the first African American from his hometown of Orville, Ohio, to graduate from college. In 1956, Dr. Crigler achieved his goal and then some, by also becoming the first African American graduate of Ursinus College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and was a student-athlete at Ursinus, playing both baseball and football. Dr. Crigler was a profound scholar and community leader. He earned his master’s degree in Public Administration from Pepperdine University and his Ph.D. in Government from Claremont Graduate University.
Dr. Crigler was committed to the bettering his community and creating a more just society. He spent much of his professional career working to improve the lives and outcomes for emotionally disturbed children. He served as Executive Director of the Chaparral Treatment Center in Colton, California with the Los Angeles County Probation Department in a variety of positions and spent 15 years in the classroom at various colleges and universities in California. His legacy and commitment to scholarship, community engagement and service earned him the Ursinus College Alumni Award for Professional Achievement in 1998.
In 2011, Ursinus College honored Dr. Crigler by renaming the Bridge Program (founded in 1988), The W. R. Crigler Institute. Paulette Paton, former Director of Multicultural Services, commented, “Whenever he is called to serve Ursinus, he asks, ‘When and how long do you want me?’” The W. R. Crigler Institute is a three-week program where selected incoming first-year students, namely first-generation college students, get a jumpstart on college coursework, network and participate in leadership development activities.
Rosie Davis-Aubrey ’15 participated in Crigler during the summer of 2011 and took a theater course with Dominick Scudera. When asked about this experience, Rosie commented, “It helped me feel comfortable auditioning for shows during the year because Dominic really made it fun and I already knew what working with him would entail.” Rosie remembered her experience in the Crigler Institute fondly, commenting, “The Crigler Institute made Ursinus accessible for me. It gave me a great sense of community before I had even begun college. I had already made friends, I knew the campus, I had contact and relationships with upperclassman, we got to meet with President Bobby Fong and got to know him and his wife pretty intimately, which is not always done at institutions. We also had Rev. Charles Rice and Ms. Patton who continued to check-in on and mentor us throughout the year. Looking back, Crigler Institute was a pivotal part of the reason why I felt comfortable doing as much as I ended up doing on campus.”
By: Olivia Keithley ’16