Eulogy for Don Craig ‘57

I am grateful to Nancy for the invitation to speak about Don Craig, although Cathy and I had come to know the Craigs only during the past six years, following our arrival at WPI. Six years is but an afternoon on the Worcester time scale, so I realize that I speak as a wash-ashore among this gathering of lifelong friends. Earlier this week I did have conversations with Bob Beckett, Don’s WPI roommate and close friend, and Steve Rubin, WPI alumnus and now our Board Chair. Both Bob and Steve expressed their great affection for Don (in part, as fellow pilots), and send to Nancy their affection and sympathy, along with regrets in not being able to be here today.

Donald Gordon Craig was a loving husband and father, an engineer, a Korean War veteran, a career American Airlines Captain Pilot, and a wonderful human being. He was also a man of many avocations, including flying, home building (in the great WPI tradition of putting talent and knowledge to work to create something of value to society), and service to alma mater.

Don earned his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering at WPI in 1957. While a student he was an athlete, a musician, a journalist, and a campus leader, especially in the ROTC program where he rose to the top student leadership post.

As an alumnus Don continued to contribute leadership to WPI in many important ways. He and Nancy have been generous donors financially, as well as of their personal time. Regularly attending class reunions, Don spent many hours soliciting reunion gifts from former classmates, and leading several major anniversary gift campaigns including the one for his 50th reunion resulting in an all-time giving record. Don contributed critical leadership to the Alumni Association, putting its finances on a firm footing and serving as its president. He helped found the highly successful WPI Venture Forum. Don and Nancy were founding members of the Alden Society, committing to support WPI through their estate plans. What more could a college president hope for in an alumnus?

I crossed Don only once, as far as I know. Nancy had invited Cathy and me to join them for lunch at their lovely home on the waterfront in East Falmouth. It was a lovely summer day. While enjoying Nancy’s fabulous meal I rambled on far too long about a recent trip I had made to East Asia, commenting in particular on how impressed I was with the Asian airlines, especially the Thai Airlines. Don had listened to all this politely until I made the infelicitous comment, “And, boy--what a shock to arrive in San Francisco and switch back to an American carrier for the flight to Boston.” “You can stop right there!” was Captain Craig’s emphatic comment. I did just that. 

Often in eulogies for prominent individuals, from Dizzy Dean to Gerald Ford to Robert Kennedy, it is said, “He was a good and decent man.” Don Craig certainly was that, and somuch more. He was warm and caring man, deeply devoted to his family and especially his beloved Nancy, loyal to his many friends, faithful to the hedge he kept perfectly trimmed, and an inspiration to so many. Mahatma Ghandi said, “To find yourself, lose yourself in service to others.” Don Craig was just that kind of person. May his memory long be revered, and may Nancy know our undying love and admiration.

Dennis Berkey

July 1, 2010

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