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"What made him such a great pastor was his
openness, his availability, his warmth, his
compassion, and his common sense."
-Thomas Gillespie, Seminary President

David Crawford:
An Ambassador of Good Will


by Hope Andersen

B.gif (226 bytes)arbara Crawford, the widow of the late David Livingstone Crawford, received more than four hundred letters in response to the news of her husband’s death last June. The letters poured in from all over the country, sent both by friends and colleagues of many years and by others—students, parishioners, and acquaintances—who knew Crawford for a shorter time. The message in all of this correspondence was the same: he was a man beloved by many, who had touched countless lives and would be sorely missed.

What was it about Crawford that no mere obituary could relay? What about him could not be captured in the facts and figures of his life? What prompted Seminary President Thomas Gillespie to say of Crawford’s death, “This is no small thing in the life of the Seminary. Presidents have come and gone, but David Crawford was always there.”

For many, Crawford embodied Princeton Seminary, not necessarily as it is today, but as it had been during the ten years that he was a student at PTS and the thirty years that he served the Seminary in various administrative positions, including secretary of the Seminary (1960-1964), director of student relations (1964-1989), director of vocations and admissions (1989-1993), and interim director of continuing education (1993-1994).

Elaine Hinnant (’89B), who worked with Crawford as assistant director of admissions from 1989 through 1992, calls him a “Goodwill Ambassador for the Seminary.” In fact, many consider the work that he did in this area — meeting with students, alumni/ae, and others across the United States; challenging men and women to consider the call to ministry; helping individuals discern God’s will for their lives; inviting prospective students to seriously consider Princeton before choosing another seminary — as his most important contribution to PTS.

“He had a strong loyalty to the Seminary and to world mission,” Hinnant says. “He spoke about that often. His calling was to go into the world. His gift was traveling. He didn’t read files; he read people.”

Part of what made Crawford such an able ambassador was that he was a natural born recruiter who was blessed with both an encyclopedic mind and an incredible ability to remember names, faces, and places. Even when his health was failing in the last months of his life, he was able to identify former classmates, and their hometowns and states.

Equally, if not more, significant was his gift as a speaker. That gift was recognized early in his career: Crawford was awarded the senior

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David Livingstone Crawford

preaching prize at his graduation with the Class of 1947. Dr. Richard Armstrong (’58B), the Seminary’s Ralph B. and Helen S. Ashenfelter Professor of Ministry and Evangelism Emeritus, calls Crawford’s fluency “legendary.”

“David Crawford was one of the most articulate, mellifluous speakers I have ever known,” says Armstrong. “Even in normal conversation, he was poetic. No one was more polished and effective a representative of Princeton Seminary than he.”

Gillespie, as well as many others, echoes such sentiments when he recalls the first time he ever met Crawford in 1951.

“I met him during my first year here as a student,” he says. “He was Dr. Mackay’s [the Seminary’s fourth president] teaching assistant. When he spoke, I was spellbound. He was so effusive. Words just flowed from him.”

Kim Nelson (’77B), who served as a seminarian at Kingston Presbyterian Church when Crawford was interim pastor there, says, “There is not a pastoral prayer that I compose that I do not think of David and his magnificent use of the English language.”

Running deep beneath his words, through his veins, and in the very marrow of his bones was Crawford’s devotion to the Gospel. The son of a pastor, the father of pastors, he was a pastor through and through.

“What made him such a great pastor,” Gillespie says, “was his openness, his availability, his warmth, his compassion, and his common sense.”

One of Crawford’s parishioners, Sandra Boston (’64E), writing in a letter to Barbara Crawford, recalls, “When he was my minister, he used to take me over to the Seminary, show me around, introduce me to people. The day my father died, he came to the Trenton train station knowing that I would have to wait for a connection to Princeton Junction and that I was so alone. He led my Dad’s funeral and included me in it — a service of thanksgiving for his life. He taught me so much by his example.”

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