If it were up to Steve Crank ’73, ’74 MBA, the University of Lynchburg would be called the “University of Love.” It’s where Crank met his late wife, Susan Hornsby Crank ’74. Many family members and classmates found love at Lynchburg, too.
It’s one reason Crank is so dedicated to making sure Lynchburg thrives. In addition to supporting various campaigns, he’s created or funded three large scholarships over the past few years. His motto: If you can give now, do it.
“As alumni, we’ve always been asked, from the development office, to leave something in our will for the College,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I thought, maybe I’ll do that at some point in time, but I never did.
“When I came on the board of trustees, I learned more about the University and what the lifeblood is — the students. I thought, ‘If I wait until I die to give money, that’s many students who wouldn’t have the opportunity to come here because they didn’t receive a scholarship.’ Even small donations together can make an impact on the scholarship fund.”
Declining enrollment nationwide and fierce competition for college students further motivated Crank.
“The school needs students right now, and if we don’t grow enrollment, the school might not be here in the future,” he explained. “I want the University of Lynchburg to be one of the survivors. The best way to do that is to help with scholarships. Once prospective students are on our beautiful campus and hear about our programs, we have a good chance of having them apply.”
The realization that he should give now coincided with his retirement in 2020 when his three kids had finished college and finances were no longer a concern, Crank says.
That year, he spearheaded the Kimberly Hulligan White ’74 Endowed Scholarship Fund, which pays tribute to the late wife of former Sigma Mu Sigma fraternity brother Dr. James Spencer White ’73. The fund supports graduate students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy or PA Medicine program who are in good academic standing.
“Jim is a good friend, a fraternity brother, as well as being a very good soccer player,” Crank recalled. “We stayed in touch throughout the years — we vacationed with Jim and Kim, along with other fraternity brothers. When Kim passed away, I thought the best thing to do was to start a scholarship fund in her name.”
Crank knew White had a lot of friends from Lynchburg and family members. He put the starter money in and told the alumni office who they needed to contact — soccer players and fraternity brothers. “Right there was a good group to start,” Crank said.
That group of possible contributors included 50 to 60 people, most with successful careers. In less than one year, the fund was large enough to start handing out scholarships.
But Crank wasn’t done just yet.
In 2022, he established the Rev. Dr. Charles E. Crank, Jr. ’47 and Mrs. Melba C. Crank ’49 Memorial Scholarship Fund, which supports graduate and undergraduate students who have “demonstrated financial need and academic promise.”
As the name suggests, the scholarship honors his parents, Charles E. Crank Jr., who died in 1995, and Melba Cornett Crank, who passed away in early 2020. Both earned bachelor’s degrees in religion at Lynchburg.
Crank and his current wife, Connie, contributed $100,000 to establish the fund. They also gave another $50,000 to a scholarship created in 2006 by Kathleen L. Husted in memory of Crank’s late wife, Susan.
The Susan Hornsby Crank Memorial Art Award and Scholarship Fund provides an annual cash award to a student who has exhibited outstanding talent and/or ability in the field of art, Susan’s major. It also offers scholarship support for a student pursuing a degree in a field of art, with preference given to art education majors.
The Cranks are members of the prestigious Founders Society and the 1903 Society.
“We are so grateful to Steve and Connie for their generous support of Lynchburg throughout the years,” said Vice President for Advancement Dr. Mike Bonnette. “Their gifts have made a tremendous impact on our students and will do so for generations to come.”
A longtime senior vice president at CapTrust Financial advisors, Crank has been a member of the University of Lynchburg Board of Trustees since 2008. He says Lynchburg’s curriculum, particularly the MBA program, prepared him well for his first job and beyond — 40 years in the financial advising industry.
“I enjoyed that tremendously,” he said. “I had a good career and was able to retire when I wanted to. I know the MBA helped me get my job [at Fidelity American Bank in Lynchburg] because it was a pretty tight market at the time.”
Crank was part of the first cohort, along with his best friend, Charles “Chuck” Doremus ’74, to participate in a 3-2-program that combined three years of undergraduate coursework and two years of grad school into a five-year BA and MBA. “I said, heck, I’ll probably never come back to get my MBA, so this was an easy way to do it,” Crank said. “[Chuck and I] both graduated in ’74 with our MBAs and undergraduate degrees in the same year.”
He added, “I’d like to see the 3-2 MBA program reinstated as I think it would attract prospective students. My MBA was very valuable to me in my career.”
Crank had applied only to Lynchburg, which offered everything he wanted. During a visit in his senior year of high school, he met then-President Dr. M. Carey Brewer ’49.
“I liked the College — they had just built a brand-new gymnasium at the time and I played basketball,” Crank said. “That’s what got me to Lynchburg, along with family members. I think there are 18 Cranks who have attended Lynchburg College.”
Like so many students, Crank was involved outside of class. He played varsity basketball for four years, joined the Sigma Mu Sigma fraternity, and worked on campus.
“I worked three years in the cafeteria with a couple of other guys, and we were pretty much glorified bouncers, believe it or not,” Crank recalled. “They had us walking around making sure food fights didn’t start but we weren’t always successful.”
In his final year, he was a resident advisor and coached the JV basketball team because he didn’t want his parents to finance the added year.
Crank hopes his gifts will inspire other donors to step up, so more students can experience everything Lynchburg has to offer.
“For people who have the means to give, I would recommend giving now,” he said. “The school needs it and scholarships are a great way to attract students. [It’s] just a win-win, because if the student comes and takes a tour I think they’re going to love the school and will probably be giving back, too.
“Students end up falling in love with the University of Lynchburg and they just may find their life partner too!”
Give now to make a difference in the life of a Lynchburg student.