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New Ole Miss scholarship honors a son, father and friend

By Tina Hahn

University of Mississippi

Achieving the Eagle Scout rank — the highest accomplishment in Scouting — reflects a level of leadership and commitment reached only by about 5 percent of Boy Scouts. Mitchell Crawford was one of those proud Eagle Scouts.

Crawford, 34, died in 2011 after a five-year battle with lymphoma. Terry Crawford and his wife, Cindy, of Ocala, Florida, have committed $500,000 to create a scholarship endowment in their son’s name at the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration, with first preference going to Eagle Scouts. Both father and son earned business degrees from Ole Miss.

“After Cub Scouts, Mitchell attended a Boy Scout meeting at First Baptist Church in Ocala, which had a really strong program — one meeting and he was sold,” said Terry Crawford, founder and president of Conimar Group. “He had a great Scouting experience and learned leadership skills and life lessons.

“I was a Scout leader and continue to help with fundraising, and Mitchell and I shared a wealth of outstanding experiences. It was a natural choice to direct the first preference for my son’s scholarship to Eagle Scouts.”

Mitchell Crawford was also a Vigil member of Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s honorary society, and among his trips were those to the World Scout Jamboree in Korea, the U.S. National Jamboree and the Philmont Scout Ranch, where he and his father made a 65-mile trek, ate freeze-dried food and collected priceless memories.

“I think everyone starts out in Boy Scouting wanting to be an Eagle Scout — that’s the ultimate rank,” Terry Crawford said. “Becoming an Eagle Scout, however, requires hard work, dedication, persistence, focus and time.

“When young men are around 14 to 15 years old, there are a lot of other things competing for their time. Only those very dedicated to the goal reach it, and then those qualities they’ve developed benefit them the rest of their lives.”

The Mitchell Crawford Eagle Scout Scholarship Endowment also pays tribute to the lives of Mitchell’s mother, Connie Mitchell Crawford — a dedicated elementary school teacher who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 2001 — and to his great aunt, Mary Shashy Jones, for the roles they played in Mitchell’s life and the larger Crawford family, Terry Crawford said.

“I am inspired by the Crawfords’ story; what a remarkable way for a father to honor a son,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We are tremendously grateful to the Crawford family for their support of Ole Miss, our School of Business Administration and Eagle Scouts. This significant commitment will certainly play an important role in attracting and supporting students of Mitchell’s caliber.

“I continue to be amazed by the service, energy and contributions by our alumni and friends. They are such a vital part of our university’s sustained growth and success.”

Mitchell Crawford’s legacy will be extended through this scholarship and by his only child, 13-year-old daughter Paige, an enthusiastic Ole Miss fan who has participated in summer dance camp and enjoys visiting campus several times a year with her family. Her mom, Tara Knebel of Highland, Illinois, was a Rebelette, and Paige hopes to follow in her parents’ footsteps by making Ole Miss her college home.

“I think it’s incredible that this scholarship is named for my dad,” Paige Crawford said. “It’s good that it will help students who have worked really hard to reach their goals.”

Ken Cyree, UM dean of business administration, expressed appreciation to the Crawford family for making such significant investments in students’ lives.

“Terry Crawford obviously put a great deal of thought into how he would create a permanent tribute to the life of his son,” Cyree said. “We are extremely grateful and humbled that he chose to provide student scholarships at Ole Miss. Mitchell’s legacy will be expanded as this endowment assists many students, who will then graduate and make contributions to the business world and to their respective communities.”

Mitchell Crawford had a great zest for the outdoors and was a fisherman and duck hunter, leading to his love of Labrador retrievers. During his college years, he worked as a dog trainer for former University Police Chief Mike Stewart at Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, and was very involved with training Drake, the first Ducks Unlimited mascot.

With his dog and best friend, Tucker, Crawford enjoyed countless hours of training and hunting.

Stewart remembers the first time he met the younger Crawford, who was seeking help training Tucker at Wildrose Kennels, which is nationally recognized.

“I was a one-man operation then, and Mitchell took one of my classes,” said Stewart, who tried to recruit him to a permanent role at Wildrose after his graduation and remained close friends with him until the end. “Then he started helping me with shows across the country and with the training of Drake for Ducks Unlimited. Mitchell figured out that Drake became easily bored and needed new things to capture his interest. Mitchell could read smart dogs better than anyone.

“Mitchell was this genuine, fun-loving, happy personality who was great to be around – always so positive. Mitchell loved being part of Ole Miss; he was entrenched in all things connected with his university. This is a great tribute to someone who definitely had a heart for Ole Miss.”