The following was presented at a special assembly at the Williston Northampton School on Tuesday March 25th, 2014 by Head of School Bob Hill as part of a remembrance of faculty member and coach Brian Crockett.
Good Morning Williston:
Whenever our community comes together following a holiday there is always a sense of renewal and hope infused by the joy of seeing old friends. This spring, however, Williston reconvenes having suffered a terrible loss on the Tuesday when we departed for break. Brian Crockett’s untimely and unexpected death has left a hole in our midst even bigger than his NFL lineman’s frame. For students and adults, March 4th was a horrible day, and in my many years in boarding schools it was certainly one of the toughest I have ever had.
The night before Brian passed away, I visited him in the hospital and he was explaining, just as a teacher would, the procedures and medications involved in treating the blood clots that had been discovered in his lungs. Brian was fine, I thought, he looked great, he was talking about having some fast food smuggled in to supplement the hospital diet, and he was as vibrant as ever. Given the treatment he was receiving and the odds against any complications, he had every cause to be optimistic, and he expected to return to Williston in a couple of days. As I left, Brian thanked me for coming by to see him and his aunt Francine, thanking me in a way that was actually uncomfortable since I felt I should be the one to be thanking him. That moment was typical Brian Crockett: always giving more than he asked for, always thankful, always appreciative.
Both Williston and his college alma mater Colgate have been coming to terms with Brian’s death for the last three weeks, and we will continue the timeless process of grieving that reminds us all of our common humanity. The memorial service for Brian held in Passaic New Jersey on March 13th brought to light his immeasurably large impact. Communities from all stages of his life came to honor him—the entire Colgate University football team and coaching staff, at least 75 strong were in attendance, roughly twenty faculty, students, and parents represented Williston, and two Baptist church congregations combined forces in song, stories, and psalms. It was as all-embracing a service as I’ve been to: old and young, white and black, large and small—all came together for a final goodbye. On a very personal level, it has been a difficult year for the Hill family, losing two legendary grandparents and then my own father just this past January. Others in this chapel today have experienced the loss of family and loved ones, and we all need to support and watch out for one another in the days, weeks, and months ahead as we try to reconcile this very painful loss to our school.
So on this beautiful Williston morning, we celebrate Brian Crockett’s—teacher, coach, advisor, colleague, friend. It seems as if it were only yesterday that he joined with Ms. Evans, and Mr. Harper before the school year began to attend a new teachers workshop at Pomfret School where he famously challenged everyone to get in touch with their inner princess. To his high school and college friends he was known as Bubblez—telling his pals at Williston that he would crush them if they let his students know this name. So Ms. Evans and others called him Princess, and he embraced that name.
You will now here more about the life and impact of Mr. Crockett from his close friend, Mr. McKillop.