True Grinnellian: William Crosby

A large fan of the small college town community, Crosby has a community presence, both in town and on campus.

Photo by John Brady. A large fan of the small college town community, Crosby has a community presence, both in town and on campus.

Bibliophile, thespian and dedicated pedestrian, William Crosby, colloquially known as “Crosby,” has been gracing the campus and greater Grinnell community with his talents and passion for over 20 years. Most students will immediately recognize Crosby as a constant and dedicated attendee at campus events.

Born in Staten Island, New York, Crosby has since lived in over 30 cities, but finally decided to settle down in Grinnell. His father’s position in the navy took him from New York to North Carolina, Colorado, California and even Puerto Rico, but the decision to move to Grinnell was all his own.

“I’ve lived in big cities all my life and I was thinking back in ’92, I’d like to live in a place where I can walk around, know people that I pass by, see familiar faces. So I thought, small town,” Crosby said.

Attracted to the idea of small town life, Crosby began to do extensive research for the ideal place to live.

He created a list of 40 towns that met his criteria: small, Midwestern, college towns. After his list was compiled, he sent letters to the mayors of each town inquiring about the community resources. He received responses from almost every location, but Grinnell seemed to stand out.

“There were only six towns that sent a personal letter back and Grinnell was one of those,” said Crosby. “There were sort of lots of little things that pointed to Grinnell. The town and college met a lot of my personal criteria for why I was moving to a small town [and] the fact that they sent a personal letter put them more in my mind.”

In 1994 Crosby made his choice, and took the risk of moving to Grinnell to pursue his ideal of small town life.

“I took a Greyhound bus … and arrived with no job, no family, no friends, no place to live,” Crosby said.

He received a warm welcome immediately upon his arrival, and within a week he had obtained a job and secured a place to live.

“Literally, stepping off the bus I had a great experience,” Crosby said.

Since his arrival in 1994, Crosby has become an involved member of the Grinnell community. He performed in a local production of “Sweeney Todd” the first summer after he arrived, and has continued his involvement in campus and community productions.

Last spring he performed in the College’s Mentored Advanced Project-based play “Balancing Acts” with a number of students from the College and members of the community. The experience allowed him to form lasting relationships with his fellow cast members.

“I still know, or am Facebook friends with the people I met in ‘Balancing Acts,’” Crosby said.

Currently, he is involved in a community production of “A Traveling Travesty in Two Tumultuous Acts” as both an announcer and a stagehand.

During his free time offstage, Crosby enjoys reading and going on walks.

“I almost always have a book on me … and I like walking,” he said.

“I’ve walked to Montezuma, to Newton, to Brooklyn and Malcolm. I’ve thought of walking across the United States but where do you sleep and where do you poop? I’m still stuck on the practical stuff.”

Although his dedication to pedestrianism may take him outside of Grinnell, Crosby continues to enjoy the various activities and opportunities available to him within the town’s limits.

“I do like that the town itself, for being a small town, has a lot of amenities or activities going on that most small towns don’t. I like the activities,” Crosby said.

Above all, Crosby cites the College as his favorite attraction in town.

“The College is my favorite thing [about the town] because I go to plays and concerts,” he said.

“Since I don’t have a car, I don’t get out of town much; however, the atmosphere of the College is different from the town, so I feel like I leave the town when I go to the College which is why I like coming to the College.”