Dr. Crossan, 84, died May 3, as the result of a stroke.
A native Delawarean, he spent his entire 39-year career at the University of Delaware, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1950. He married Ruth Swanson, the “girl next door” while studying at UD.
After receiving master’s and doctoral degrees in plant pathology at North Carolina State College, he returned to his alma mater and worked in research, as a professor, vice president of University relations and business management, and dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station. He was the author and co-author of more than 75 scientific research papers.
Upon retirement, an agricultural scholarship was established in his name to students with academic achievement and an interest in agriculture as a career.
Among his academic and community awards are the University of Delaware Medal of Distinction, the Lindbach Award for Excellence in Teaching, University of Delaware Outstanding Alumnus Award, North Carolina State University Outstanding Alumnus Award, University of Delaware Wall of Fame, Arthur Trabant Women’s Equity Award, George M. Worrilow Alumni Award for Outstanding Service to Agriculture, New Castle County and State of Delaware Farm Bureau Awards for Outstanding Service to Agriculture, and the Delaware State Bar Association Liberty Award for Community Service. Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner declared July 26, 2001, as Dr. Donald F. Crossan Day for his leadership in permanently protecting more than 60,000 acres of farmland in Delaware.
Dr. Crossan served on the Boards of the Delaware Nature Education Society, Newark Senior Center, Delaware Partners of America with Panama, National Corn Breeders Association, Delaware Agricultural Museum, and he led a 37-member delegation to China for People-to-People Delaware. He was well-known for leading agricultural tours to many countries.
He served under three governors as chairman of the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board and was the first chairman of the Delaware Farmland Preservation Foundation. After serving on the Board of Trustees of Longwood Gardens Inc. for 36 years, Dr. Crossan was named Trustee Emeritus.
Before his first stroke 13 years ago, he was an avid outdoorsman, and later enjoyed reading, cultural events and traveling. Just before his death, he cruised to Antarctica, celebrating with his wife visits to all seven continents. He was “Swedish by Marriage” and enjoyed helping his wife entertain family and friends in the Swedish tradition.
The son of the late Samuel Davis Crossan and Anna Bertha Spinken Crossan, he was brought up on the east side of Wilmington where he learned about hunting and fishing in the nearby ponds and fields and was an assistant Boy Scout leader. After graduating from P.S. DuPont High School in 1944, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and subsequently was stationed in Guam where he served as a tail gunner in a B-29 in the Pacific Theatre of War with 15 combat missions.
In addition to his wife of 62 years, Ruth Swanson Crossan, he is survived by a sister, Dolores Brandt; three children, Connie C. Cox (Michael Cox), Donna C. Crossan and Eric R. Crossan (Karla Papen Crossan); four grandchildren, Matthew Cox (Mindy), Lauren Duckworth (Ryan), Kate Crossan (Eric Stauder), and Julie Crossan; five great grandchildren, Haley Everett, Emily Cox, Evan Cox, Colton Duckworth, and Cierra Duckworth; and nieces and nephews.
A private family service and interment will be held at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a contribution, made payable to the “University of Delaware,” for the Donald F. Crossan Agricultural Alumni Scholarship, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716 or the Donald Crossan Herbaceous Circle Garden, CANR, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.