Friends and family full of appreciation for Dr. Donald Crisp assembled at the Abilene Civic Center Sunday to honor him as the 2005 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.
Crisp graduated from ACU in 1964 with a B.S. in accounting and business administration and is now chair of the university Board of Trustees.
After opening remarks from Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, and an invocation, Crisp's nine grandchildren surprised him with a song they had prepared.
Kailey Rhoden, one of Crisp's graddaughters, also sang her original tribute to Sept. 11, Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Think of Me." Carol Crisp, the recipient's wife, accompanied Rhoden on the piano.
Three of Crisp's close friends were asked to speak; his integrity, devotion and humility were repeatedly emphasized.
Dr. Jack Griggs, class of 1964, met Crisp during the fall of their freshman year. Griggs did not recall the details of their meeting but said he purued a friendship with Crisp.
"I just know I wanted to be like him," Griggs said.
Griggs described Don and Carol Crisp's courtship with amusing anecdotes and made the suggestion that it was Carol Crisp who did the pursuing.
Crisp obtained his first job, became a trustee of the Caroline Hunt Trust Estate and joined the Board of Trustees as a result of his being pursued by each organization, Griggs said.
The reason for this pattern, Griggs said, is not because of an ambition for worldly gain or glory. It is because of Crisp's character, Griggs described Crisp as having: "...Brilliant emotional intelligence, sincere modesty, an always ready sense of humor..."
Griggs turned to Crisp to conclude: "Don thank you for being someone we can point to our children and tell them 'this is who we want you to be like.'"
Don Rhoden, class of 1958, was connected to Crisp when his son married Crisp's eldest daughter. Crisp's affinity to helping those in need was what ultimately formed a friendship between the two, he said. Rhoden referenced The Godfather, dubbing Crisp "The Don," and described his own effort to receive aid from Crisp.
"I didn't come away with money, but I got a much better deal - a lifelong friend," Rhoden said.
Crisp, an avid golfer, once partnered with Rhoden in an Austin tournament. Rhoden's game was at its worst, but Crisp worked all the harder, Rhoden said.
"I learned [that day] that if 'The Don' had been on the Titanic," Rhoden said, "he would have been paddling his legs as hard as he could, trying to hold the boat up."
The third tribute speaker, J. McDonald "Don" Williams, class of 1963, was unable to attend becuase of adverse circumstances.
Crisp's award was presented in recognition of his service to ACU, his Christ-like attitude in the business arena, his seflessness, his commitment to the Board of Trustees, his teamwork and integrity and the humble example he sets daily.
When Crisp ascended to the podium, he sincerely thanked friends and family, demonstrating the humility that so many appreciate. Crisp described his timidity as a young man and suggested it is his wife's presence to which he attributes his success.
"Carol and I are co-honorees today," Crisp said. "We're in this together."
The university had an immense influence on his life, Crisp said, and he plans on spending his lifetime ensuring others experience something similar. Crisp's love for his alma mater is what makes this award preiceless.
"This is an award I will treasure more than anything becuase of where it came from," he said.
Crisp is one of 90,000 who are spread across 109 nations, Money said.
"ACU alumni really are changing the world," said Money, "It's not just a slogan." A special announcement concluded the ceremony: an endowment in the College of Business Administration has been created in Crisp's honor. When the sum reaches $1 million, the endowment will be given to a distinguished faculty member who will train business students to follow Crisp's example as a Christ-like business leader.
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