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For Nancy Craig and her late husband, Donald Craig ’57, WPI has always been much more than a university. It’s a home and a part of their family.
“WPI is in our hearts,” Nancy Craig says. “We live and breathe it.”
Craig has honored her husband’s memory and their long and deep connection to WPI with a generous bequest of $2.2 million. The gift supports student scholarships, a critical fundraising priority for WPI. It will be added to the Matthew Andrews Craig Memorial Scholarship, established by the Craigs in 1993 following the untimely loss of their son, Matthew, at the age of 24.
Craig describes her husband as a “very intelligent and fun-loving person.” He grew up in Torrington, Conn., and came to WPI on a scholarship from Torrington Manufacturing. During his four years at the university, he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and participated in track, swimming, varsity club, Peddler (yearbook), band, camera club, and ASME Pershing Rifles. He majored in mechanical engineering and was battalion commander of ROTC in his senior year.
“Don loved WPI,” says Craig, explaining that her husband credited much of his success to his alma mater. Upon graduating from WPI with military distinction, Don Craig received a regular Army commission and served eight years as a U.S. Army Captain, eventually earning the Army Commendation Medal. He then joined Hamilton Standard as a design engineer and spent just over a year in Okinawa, Japan, as the firm’s technical representative. Nancy has fond memories of their time in Okinawa, where she was Social Chairman of the Navy Officers Wives Club—even as a civilian, she notes—and taught English at a Ryukyuan high school in Naha, Okinawa, twice a week.
Don left Hamilton Standard to become a pilot with American Airlines in 1966. He worked his way up from flight officer, to co-pilot of the Boeing 707, to captain of the MD-11. He retired in 1995 after almost 30 years with the airline.
Though his distinguished career often took him far from Worcester, Nancy says, the couple always remained close to WPI and the members of the Class of 1957. She has many happy memories of annual summer gatherings with Don’s classmates— known as “The Out-of-Bounds Gang”—at their Cape Cod home. Every time they visited campus and attended reunions over the years, she adds, “it was like coming home.”
After years of volunteering for his class and the university in various capacities, Don became president of the WPI Alumni Association in 1993. He took on that role with the same energy and enthusiasm as he dedicated to his career and family. During his tenure, he led the association through a vital era that bolstered the WPI Venture Forum (a vibrant group for business people, inventors, and venture capitalists), placed the management of the association’s assets in the hands of an investment firm, brought institutional recognition to issues surrounding alumni career services, and laid the groundwork for an alumni online service and a major survey of alumni. Many of these accomplishments have had a lasting impact. WPI now has a staff member in its Career Development Center who is partially dedicated to alumni career development, for example. Several years ago, WPI also launched its online community for alumni, AlumniConnect (alumniconnect.wpi.edu). In addition, Don was instrumental in the fundraising campaign for the Class of 1957’s 50-year reunion gift, which raised a record $2.5 million.
The Craigs are longtime generous benefactors to WPI. They are Presidential Founders, recognizing those who have given $100,000 or more to the university, members of the President’s Circle for leadership annual donors, and charter members of the Alden Society, honoring those who have made planned gifts to WPI. Don Craig passed away in January 2010, and President Berkey delivered his eulogy at a memorial service held later that year—a testament, Nancy says, to the relationship between Don and his alma mater. This most recent gift to the university, she adds, is a tribute to him and to the university that shaped his life.
“I just wanted to pay back WPI for what it has meant to my husband’s life, and to my life,” she says.