James H. Crichton: A Life of High Points

Additional Links:
A Thanksgiving Meditation by James Crichton

Comments by Prof. Paul Lepse

Your Memories

Death is inevitable, but love is not. Love is the gift of God. Thanks be to God. James H. Crichton, Nov. 19, 1999

On December 18, 1999, James H. Crichton, professor of physics and engineering at Seattle Pacific University, died of cancer at the age of 62.

A beloved SPU professor since 1965, Jim Crichton was born and raised in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood and attended Seattle Pacific College. Yet long before he graduated summa cum laude in 1959, and long before he earned a 1965 doctorate in physics from the University of California-Berkeley, people noticed his quick mind.

"I met Jim when I was 11 and he was 4," says Roger Anderson, SPU professor emeritus of physics. Shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, 11-year-old Anderson and other kids were on a local street corner, talking about growing world tensions. A 4-year-old made an "unusually bright remark," recalls Anderson. "So I went over and quizzed him." He asked the boy about world leaders, and a 4-year-old Jim Crichton reeled off the names of Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler and Mussolini.

Years later, in addition to teaching physics and engineering to countless Seattle Pacific students, Crichton gained international recognition by disproving a long-held opinion pertaining to quantum physics and "phase shifts." His view became known as the "Crichton Ambiguity."

Yet his interests went beyond science. Crichton was passionate about classical music, baseball, and sports statistics - including Falcons stats. He also hiked, climbed 180 mountains, ran marathons, and reached 22 official U.S. state elevation "high points."

He frequently climbed with his students and with longtime friends such as Anderson, Professor of Music Eric Hanson, Professor of Chemistry Grayson Capp and Professor of Chemistry Paul Lepse. After scientific conferences, he and Lepse often climbed nearby state high points, including Humphries Peak in Arizona and Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Crichton never shied away from grappling with faith and science. "I learned a lot from him about things like the Big Bang theory and how that relates to God as the creator," says Lepse. Anderson had similar experiences. "He was truly a spiritual inspiration to me," he says. "He faced hard questions continuously."

James Crichton is survived by his wife, Evelyn Vander Pol Crichton, also of the class of '59; two children; three grandchildren; and one sister. Remembrances can be made to the James H. Crichton Scholarship Fund at SPU.

Editor's Note: Click here to contribute your memories of Professor James Crichton.


You're Invited to Homecoming 2000

"Jubileeeee!" is the celebratory theme of the first Seattle Pacific University Homecoming and Family Weekend of the new century, February 3-5. From reunions to sporting events to concerts, SPU will mark the occasion with a wide array of events, such as:

Class Reunions. Members of the Classes of 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1995 are invited to special gatherings in your honor.

Alumnus of the Year Chapel and Luncheon. The Homecoming Chapel and Alumnus of the Year Luncheon will honor Denny Rydberg '67, president of Young Life International.

Theatre. A lavish production with a big cast, The Royal Hunt of the Sun returns to the Seattle Pacific stage for the first time in 30 years.

Basketball. The competition will be keen when the Falcon women meet the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves and the Falcon men tangle with the St. Martin's Saints. Halftime presents the crowning of the Homecoming King and Queen.

Student Talent Show. "Journey Through the Century" features student acts full of laughs, drama and surprises.

President's Alumni Luncheon. President Philip Eaton will speak on "Tools for the Lion Tamer: Preparing Leaders for the New Millennium."

Thalia Orchestra Homecoming Concert. SPU's resident orchestra will perform the immortal Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

A "Jubileeeee!" brochure with a full schedule of Homecoming and Family Weekend 2000 events was mailed in early January. If you need a copy, or have questions, please call 206/281-ALUM.

A Relationship Written in the Stars

Shortly after Marian Gau Dixon '50 and her husband, Robert "Bob" Dixon '49, married in the late 1940s, they began a lifetime of globetrotting and stargazing.

After moving to California, Marian joined several church and civic groups - and became an expert and renowned gardener. Bob became a beloved astronomy and science professor.

Then, in 1964, Marian embarked upon nearly 30 years of leading European tours for students and adults. "We've traveled in almost every country in Europe," she says, explaining that each tour consisted of 25 to 48 people interested in exploring other cultures.

Bob didn't always join Marian as tour co-leader. Sometimes he stayed home to write. Since the late 1960s, Robert Dixon has written nine textbooks - six on astronomy, two on physical science and one on physics.

He also spent 25 years as professor and director of the planetarium at California's Riverside Community College. In December 1999, 10 years after they left California to return to the Pacific Northwest, the college named its planetarium the Robert T. Dixon Planetarium.

Now residing in Everett, Washington, Marian and Bob live in the fourth home they designed and built. Like the others, it has an impressive garden and yard. It also has a greenhouse in which Marian nurtures 500 orchids. "A garden is my bliss," she says. As in California, groups tour her garden, which often includes rare plants and flowers. "My friends say I have 10 green thumbs!" she laughs.

Fifty years after leaving Seattle Pacific, the Dixons still point to SPU as a major influence in their lives. "Bob has said many times that his success as a teacher was due to Burton Beegle," says Marian. Beegle, a beloved mathematics professor, had a knack for making difficult concepts understandable, and Bob strived for that too. He still teaches at three local community colleges.

Seattle Pacific influenced the next generation of Dixons as well. Of the couple's four children, three are alumni - Eleanor Dixon Harvey '74, Kristen Dixon Rognaldson '81 and Brian Dixon '82.

Marian and Bob went to his class reunion last year and look forward to hers this year, reuniting with friends not seen in 50 years. "SPU is just like one big wonderful family," she says. "We just start talking where we left off."

Following in the Footsteps of SPU's "Scholar-Servants"

"I entered Seattle Pacific as a devout pagan," says Robert Moore-Jumonville '80. He came to SPU, he remembers, to play soccer. "That was my life."

But before his first quarter was over, he had another, unexpected goal in mind: seminary. Today, Robert is pastor of Center Chapel United Methodist Church in Marion, Indiana, and adjunct professor of history at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. His lasting commitment to Christ began in an SPU residence hall. "I really have to credit a dorm floor of guys - Fourth Ashton - for discipling me," he says.

Not only did fellow students encourage his spiritual growth, but Seattle Pacific professors played an instrumental role in helping him and his wife discover their calling: to teach in a Christian liberal arts setting. Looking back, Robert says four faculty members were instrumental in his life and in the life of Kimberly Moore-Jumonville '81: Eugene Lemcio and Frank Spina, both professors of biblical studies, and Janet Blumberg and Joyce Quiring Erickson, both professors of English. "The ‘scholar-servant' model was something they lived out," he recalls.

In the early 1980s, the Moore-Jumonvilles moved east. Robert earned a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and Kimberly earned a master of philosophy degree in English literature at nearby Drew University. Within 10 years, they relocated to central Indiana, where they earned doctorates, Kimberly in English and Robert in the history of Christianity. Now Kimberly, a tenured associate professor of English at Taylor, teaches 19th century literature to undergraduates. Robert is an adjunct professor of history and theology, and pastors Center Chapel's congregation of nearly 200 worshippers. They are also parents to a 3-year-old daughter, Annesley.

Robert says they strive to be the same "scholar-servants" they found at Seattle Pacific. "We feel one of the most important things that a Christian liberal arts education can give a student is a biblical theology that will last a lifetime, and the confidence to critique the culture and integrate faith and intellectual concerns. Seattle Pacific gave that to us."

Twenty years after leaving the Northwest, the couple plans to reconnect with old friends and faculty. "This is the first year we will be back for Homecoming," says Robert.

"Mountain-Top" Experience Draws Young Alums and Families

Seattle Pacific's Class of 1990 reunion in February won't be the first reunion this year for some class members. In January, several SPU graduates of 1989-93 gathered at Natapoc Lodge near Leavenworth, Washington. It's an annual tradition for Jeannie Halle-Isaak '90 and friends.

In 1993, Jeannie and her husband, Scott Isaak '91, invited former classmates to spend a holiday weekend on their large family farm in Eastern Washington. Their friends, like them, had recently graduated from SPU, married and begun families and careers. That Memorial Day weekend reestablished what Scott's parents, Larry Isaak '64 and Myrtle Bowerman Isaak '64, had begun for their classmates 30 years earlier.

After a few years, Heidi Henry '90 and her husband, Mike, proposed that the group move its expanding numbers to the mountain lodge. The close core of alumni has met there ever since. "It keeps you connected with the friendships formed in college, because those friendships are so deep," says Jeannie. "All of us get there and the energy is unbelievable."

During the weekend, they catch up on the past year and share parenting tips and career news. They also spend time in fellowship and prayer. Once the group also brought in two speakers for a mini marriage seminar on building trust in a marriage. "There's support and accountability among our friends," she says.

A stay-at-home mom to three "wild but wonderful" boys, Jeannie taught school until the birth of the couple's first son, now age 6. Active in their church's music program, she also sells Mary Kay Cosmetics for "fun money." Scott is an owner and partner in Isaak Brothers Farm, which raises wheat, cattle and more.

This year the Isaaks will attend the Class of 1990 reunion at Homecoming, and Jeannie says she'd love to see a musical gathering happen soon too. "I want an SPU Singers reunion!" she says.

Ten years after her graduation, Jeannie says she and her husband value the friendships formed at Seattle Pacific above all. "The education was top-notch and we use it in our careers," she says. "But we feel it was worth going to SPU because of the friends."

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or call 206-281-2051.
Copyright © 2000 University Communications, Seattle Pacific University.

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