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A prize salute to “a great listener”

A prize salute to “a great listener”

Jeff Mitz, Com'74, was in his second year of studies at Queen's when he enrolled in a class taught by Prof. Robert Crandall. The experience changed his life. Mitz and Crandall became good friends, and many years later Mitz has commemorated their friendship in a unique way.

It was something that Jeff Mitz, Com’74, had been musing about for almost 30 years. Yet when he made known his desire to establish a student academic award in honour of his mentor, friend, role model, and former professor Bob Crandall, he had no idea how to proceed.

“When I contacted the Advancement Office in 2003 to announce that I wanted to establish a Dr. Robert Crandall Prize, nobody there knew what to do either, much less how to go about it,” Mitz recalls with a laugh. “The reason was because Bob is still very much alive, and most such awards honour someone who has died, or else the award is named for the person who funds it.”

Happily, everything eventually got sorted out. And when Mitz contacted Professor Emeritus (Business) Crandall to let him know what he had in mind, Crandall at first was taken aback, but after some initial hesitation he agreed to support the project. “I was surprised, and I was flattered that Jeff would do this,” says Crandall, .

He needn’t have been. Mitz has been a Bob Crandall fan ever since that day in the fall of 1971 when he enrolled in Crandall’s second-year Accounting course. “Somehow, I knew immediately that Bob was a man who loved his work, had a passion for his subject matter, and a genuine interest in his students,” says Mitz. That awareness gave him the courage to seek out Crandall one day after class. The relationship between the two soon moved beyond the pedagogical to the personal. Crandall and his wife Fran welcomed Mitz into their home for occasional dinners. “I found that Bob really was interested in his students. He let me talk, and he’d listen. That’s right, he listened.”

Talk about the profound impact a teacher can have on a student’s life.

The conversations that followed and the sage advice Crandall offered proved pivotal in Mitz’s life. For one thing, he was prompted to follow Crandall’s lead. Mitz became a teacher, practicing his profession in the Ontario public school system for 25 years before signing on in 2000 at Crescent School, the private high school in Toronto where he now works as the director of university counseling.

“My goal in establishing the Dr. Robert Crandall Prize wasn’t just to honour Bob for the incredible contribution that he made to my life, but more importantly, to remind Commerce students that as they go forward in advancement of their own careers to never underestimate the power of giving to others,” says Mitz. “As my late father used to say to me, ‘A candle loses nothing when it lights another candle.’”
The Crandall Prize, now in its seventh year, is given to a Commerce student—nominated by his or her peers—who is entering third year and “has improved the life experience of those in the University and/or the greater Kingston community through committed leadership, and who has supported others through teamwork, motivation and example.” The winner receives $500 and an added unofficial perk—lunch with the Crandalls. “Fran and I love to meet the students,” says Bob Crandall.

For his part, Jeff Mitz also continues to reap the rewards of his generosity. “I’ve said many times, and I sincerely believe it: establishing the Dr. Robert Crandall Prize was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Nothing has ever given me more pleasure,” he says.—

[Queen's Alumni Review 2009-3 cover]