SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Trees of Honor dedication ceremony was held on April 20, 2018, at Evangel University, honoring the career of former Vice President of Business & Finance George Crawford.
A 1965 graduate of Evangel, Crawford served there for 39 years and retired in 2013. His tree is flourishing on the campus quad, east of the 50th Anniversary Clock Tower.
The Trees of Honor project began as an idea formed by a small group of graduates from the early 1960s known as “The Pioneers,” and it took root following Springfield’s great ice storm of 2007.
Their idea was to help replace lost trees and restore the natural beauty of the campus. An engraved bronze plaque is placed at the base of each tree as a permanent tribute to the person being honored. There have been 31 thus far.
“I am deeply honored by being chosen for this award,” said Crawford. “There are some giants among those who have already been honored, and I am humbled to be included with people who have served Evangel with such distinction.
“My first thought was that the candidate pool must be getting pretty shallow or someone had discovered a bramble bush on campus that lacked a name!”
Following his graduation from Evangel College, George Crawford served in the U.S. Army, then invested five years with Ramey Super Markets. The pivotal point in his career was joining the Evangel staff in 1974, one month after Dr. Robert H. Spence arrived as president.
“For 39 years, George Crawford served with distinction as Evangel’s chief financial officer,” said Spence. “His competence and dedication helped make Evangel a more efficient and effective institution.”
Crawford’s responsibilities included leadership of most of the university’s support services such as food service, building construction and maintenance, housekeeping, human resources, student financial aid and all business operations.
During his last 15 years, those construction projects completed the transformation of the campus from a WWII-era Army hospital to a state-of-the-art university.
George has been married to his wife, Doretta, for 54 years. Both of their children and their spouses are Evangel grads.
Their daughter, Michele Crawford Bilton ’95 (B.S. in mathematics), is married to Jamie Bilton ’96 (B.S. in journalism). Their son, Michael Crawford ’00 (B.B.A. in management) is married to Shonna Penners Crawford (’00 B.S. in elementary education, ’03 M.Ed.).
To top it off, Crawford’s oldest grandchild, Anna Bilton, has enrolled as a freshman at Evangel this year (2018).
Retirement has increased his focus and time spent buying and selling merchandise through six area flea market booths. In addition to his interest in repairing and refurbishing vintage furniture, Crawford’s efforts include repurposing industrial-type items to create furniture that is attractive to loft dwellers.
“I am also serving as the MC, leader, entertainer, whatever for the twenty-five or thirty Evangel retirees who meet for lunch once a month,” he said. “I should add I was railroaded into this role!”
Evangel University’s unique setting is traced back to World War II, when the land was used as O’Reilly General Hospital. In 1954, parts of the land were awarded to local organizations. The Assemblies of God received a major portion of this land to build its new liberal arts college.
Ninety-three students comprised the first freshman class in 1955. Those “pioneer” students in the first ten years all lived and studied in the former hospital barracks.
Today, the Evangel campus covers approximately 100 acres of land, roughly half the area that O’Reilly Hospital once covered. At one time, 86 barracks covered EU’s portion of the land. Now, only the original boiler house remains.