For John Crossman (BS ’62), a scholarship made the difference that allowed him to attend Caltech. His education as an engineering major went beyond the realm of the slide rule. He gained a framework for approaching problems—and, really, for approaching life itself. What Crossman learned helped set his course for a career adventure that carried him half a world away from the Boston-area neighborhood of his youth.
He recently used an IRA charitable rollover to endow a scholarship named for him and his late wife—Caltech’s John and Betsy Crossman Scholarship. This fund will generate resources to help Techers of today and tomorrow pursue the same types of educational opportunities that he did.
“It just seemed natural to give back,” says Crossman, now retired in Northern California after a career that included more than three decades in the automotive industry.
Between his junior and senior years, Crossman took on an internship with Ford in Detroit, where he “pretty much decided that was the company for me.” Applying the focus that is a hallmark of the people of Caltech, he joined the Ford team when he was a new graduate and newlywed.
A major turning point in his family’s life came when Crossman, then a manager with Toyota, decided at age 38 to move to Tokyo and study the Japanese language full-time. Happily, Betsy and their young sons took to life on the other side of the Pacifi c Rim. John credits his experiences at Caltech for infl uencing his interest in striking out as an adult to learn a very different language—and his success in that endeavor.
Curiosity was the key, and Caltech nurtured it,” Crossman says. “My interest in fi nding out about things, and my ability to fi nd out about things, grew. For those aspects, I’m pretty sure Caltech is high on the uniqueness scale.” Crossman also noted that the analytical skills he developed as an undergraduate helped him review the kanji that make up Japan’s writing system. He developed his own system of studying that placed the characters in families based on their basic form and clues to their pronunciation.
He continued with Toyota in Japan and later in Los Angeles, before returning both to the Ford Motor Company and to Japan. Ultimately, he and his family spent more than 25 years living in Japan. Crossman remembers his time overseas as “exciting—fantastic and fascinating.” To this day, he visits the island nation whenever he can.
To others considering a philanthropic commitment for scholarships, Crossman says, “Think of the students who will be able to fi nish Caltech, move into the world, and do great things—you will be helping to sponsor that.”
And for the future Crossman Scholars preparing at Caltech to launch their own life’s adventures, he offers this advice: “Work hard. Caltech will never be an easy school, and should not be. If you’re like me, you may not use much of the actual engineering or science, but the good thinking will be 100 percent required.