Smiles we remember
An amazing mentor. A relatable friend. A father figure. This is how colleagues remember Dr. Stephen Crane, retired clinical associate professor in public health sciences.
“Dr. Crane was one of the best human beings I’ve ever known, and it’s very hard to wrap my head around the fact that he’s gone,” says Leeanna Bartlett, retired social services director in public health sciences.
Crane retired from Texas A&M College of Dentistry in September 2019 after more than 18 years working in public health sciences. He passed away unexpectedly on Sept. 7 after an outing with a friend in Abilene, Texas.
When he retired a year ago, students shared their admiration with an outpouring of messages praising his inspiration and guidance, says Dr. Patricia Simons, director of student development. Every year, he taught students early on as high-schoolers and college students in the school’s pipeline initiative, the Summer Predental Enrichment Program, seeing them all the way through to the end of dental school and into private practice.
“Dr. Crane helped mold our hands very early on to prepare us for the transition into dental school,” she says. “He helped mold our hearts so that we were always reminded of our purpose to serve communities. He was a light to many of us.”
Simons, like so many other students, also worked with Crane at various community service and external clinic events, most notably through Crane’s role as director of the college’s school-based sealant program.
“You couldn’t find anything bad about him. He was like a father to everybody. He’d sit down and listen and give his two cents,” says Kenneth Howell, who assisted Crane with the sealant program for nearly a decade before retiring this summer.
Howell remembers how Crane never wanted the radio on as they traveled in the Seal Mobile to area elementary schools. Instead, he preferred chatting about their mutual love of old TV shows like “Perry Mason,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gunsmoke,” or he’d offer advice when needed. It wasn’t unusual for co-workers to brake for a stray dog at his insistence. Crane was known for his penchant for rescuing dogs and cats, another sign of his giving nature.
Even when Crane retired, he offered to continue teaching students in a volunteer capacity.
“He did it because he truly loved what he did. He loved being a mentor, he loved educating, and he loved serving his community,” Simons says.
The Office of Student Development plans to dedicate and display a framed collage of Crane in their office “because he will forever be a part of our team,” she says. “The imprint he made on my life as a mentor will remain forever, and I truly appreciated him. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to tell him that.”
Crane is survived by his wife, Annette, daughters Allison and Adrienne, and grandson Frank.