Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on Feb. 2, 2021. - Ed.
I write to share the news that Edward (“Ed”) P. Crapol, Professor Emeritus of History, passed away peacefully at home on January 28, 2021. He was 84 years old. He earned his BA at SUNY Buffalo and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined William & Mary’s Department of History in 1967, becoming Chancellor Professor of History in 1994 and William E. Pullen Professor in 1999 in recognition of his scholarly and pedagogical achievements. His long and distinguished academic career at William & Mary was acknowledged in a resolution by the Board of Visitors on the occasion of his retirement in 2004.
Prof. Crapol was a specialist in the history of United States foreign relations, authoring three books, multiple articles and book chapters, and presenting some sixty or more invited papers or conference presentations. His most recent book, John Tyler, The Accidental President grew out of his scholarly and teaching interest in nineteenth-century America and built on the close connection between William & Mary and the Tyler family. His edited volume, Women and American Foreign Policy, was groundbreaking in bringing together women’s history and the history of U.S. foreign relations. At the time of his death, he was well into a new monograph, a biography of one of President Tyler’s sons, Lyon G. Tyler.
Professor Crapol’s teaching built upon this research and ranged as widely as American foreign policy itself. He helped shape the graduate program when it was still in its nascent phase and was a frequent participant in and advocate for interdisciplinary programs. In addition to courses in American history and U.S. foreign policy, Professor Crapol offered specialized courses on the Cold War as well as an extremely popular course on America’s involvement in Vietnam. Students found him to be a dynamic and demanding teacher, and rated him among the best in the department. Alumni frequently mention his teaching as a high-point in their academic careers at William & Mary.
For almost four decades, Prof. Crapol played a central role in the life of this university, receiving multiple awards for teaching and service, including the Thomas A. Graves, Jr., Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching (1991), the Thomas Jefferson Award (1992), and the Alumni Society’s Faculty Service Award (1999). The Ed P. Crapol Award in Modern U.S. History is presented annually to one of the top graduate students working in the field of 19th and 20th Century American History.
Prof. Crapol’s contribution to the Department of History cannot be measured in these awards alone. He came of age politically during the turbulent Sixties. He was imbued with a deep commitment to civil rights, justice, and equality – principles that guided him throughout his life. Many of his younger colleagues in the department saw his fairmindedness and sociability still on display in his retirement years when chatting and sharing a beer at the Greenleafe. What we might not have realized at the time was that precisely these qualities had helped him transform the culture of the Department of History in fundamental ways. Together with a small band of colleagues who arrived in the 1960s and early 1970s, he helped over a period of many years to make the department more democratic and transparent, allowing each individual’s voice to carry its own weight. As one colleague reminisced, “At department meetings, Ed’s was typically the last voice heard, and the most persuasive.” Friday afternoon gatherings at the Greenleafe immediately following department meetings became a tradition born of an often contentious process, a way of bonding after prolonged and at times acrimonious debates. Prof. Crapol extended that collegiality beyond the pub, enjoying pool and attending sports events with colleagues. All members of the Department of History today benefit from that bedrock of collegiality forged by Ed and his associates over more than three decades. He will be missed.
Prof. Crapol is survived by his wife of more than 47 years, Jeanne Zeidler; his daughters Heidi A. Crapol and Jennifer (John) Sedbrook; son, Paul Crapol; sister, Marianne Crapol, grandchildren Bryce and Blake Sedbrook, Christopher and Jonathan (Len) Walters, and Layla Rodriguez; great-grandchild Carmella Rodriguez; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, a brother-in-law and three sisters-in-law, and many friends. He was preceded in death by a son, Andrew E. Crapol, a William & Mary graduate.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to benefit the Ed Crapol Award in Modern U.S. History (#3925) or to the Andrew E. Crapol Scholarship Fund (#3307). Checks should be made payable to William & Mary and sent to the Gift Accounting Office, P.O. Box 1693, Williamsburg, VA 23187-1693. Memorial gifts can also be made online at giving.wm.edu. Online condolences may be shared at www.nelsenwilliamsburg.com. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date when circumstances permit a safe gathering.