By Cathy Schutt
The Olivet community suffered the loss of a dear friend and colleague this past weekend. Phil Crouch, 55, died Saturday, Sept. 24. An ONU grad, he had just begun his third year as an adjunct professor in the nursing department and in the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies.
Crouch primarily served as a clinical instructor for Level 1 nursing students and as a Virtual Learning Center (VLC) coach. He also taught health assessment, gerontology and pharmacology courses during his time at Olivet.
Dr. Susan Draine, chair of the nursing department, said that Crouch’s death was a “huge loss” to the community. Not only had Crouch taught at Olivet, but he had also worked as a nurse and a nurse director at Riverside Medical Center for over 20 years, Draine added.
But family, friends and students will not remember his accomplishments as much as they’ll cherish the amiable and caring individual that he was.
Senior Cynthia Lopez said Crouch was “always willing to put forth time and effort” to make sure students could succeed – including answering phone calls at home when students had questions.
“He truly cared about us,” she added.
Other students agreed.
“He gave me grace on assignments when I needed it,” said senior Sarah Di Monte, who had Crouch for a clinical instructor and a VLC coach. “He was [a professor] that everyone loved.”
Students especially appreciated Crouch’s fun-loving spirit and quirky sense of humor.
“He would always crack jokes when you least expected it,” senior Bryan Stevens said.
Di Monte enjoyed Crouch’s interactive class sessions, especially when he had the class practice “laughing yoga.”
“‘Laughing yoga’ is when you force yourself to laugh really hard,” she explained. Crouch would use this technique when working with residents in a local nursing home for the emotional and physical health benefits it provided.
Like Stevens and Di Monte, Level 3 nursing students had a lot of experience working with Crouch, as he taught several classes when they began the nursing program last fall.
But to many, he was more than just a professor; he was also a friend.
“He’s one professor that I actually talked to on the phone outside of class,” Stevens said.
Stevens recalled discussions he had with Crouch about music and football. A dedicated Green Bay fan, Crouch once even gave him money to buy Packers gear when Stevens went home to Wisconsin over break.
Not only did Crouch have a great relationship with his students, but he also made the extra effort to spend time with his kids.
For instance, he served as Scout Master while his son Scott was in Boy Scouts. The two of them also played music together, with Scott on the guitar and his dad on the mandolin.
After his daughter Erin started practicing karate, Crouch also joined and did karate with her for the last 11 years. During that time he earned a second-degree black belt and became an instructor at Soo Bahk Do in Bradley.
His experience with martial arts sometimes spilled over into the classroom.
Stevens remembered one time when Crouch was supervising him during “check-offs” – tests in which students perform assessments on each other. As Stevens was assessing his partner, Crouch commented, “You know, if you ever want to knock someone out, just hit him in the kidneys.”
Scott Crouch said his father’s sense of humor could “light up a room.” But a battle with depression led him to take his own life last Saturday. Family members, colleagues and students were shocked that such a fate would befall Crouch, as he served as an encourager to many.
“He hit a point where he felt alone, and he didn’t reach out to anyone,” Scott said. “At a point of weakness, he made a poor decision.”
Scott added that his family is not ashamed or hiding the cause of his father’s death. Their hope is that his story will prevent others from following the same path.
“If you struggle with depression or anxiety, reach out for help,” Scott said.
Di Monte said Crouch had told her that working at Olivet was what he was most proud of.
Ren Cloutier, a Level 1 nursing student, had her first class with Crouch this semester. She said his excitement was one of the first things she noticed.
“He was very enthusiastic,” she said. “That’s what we loved about him.”
Cloutier’s favorite memory of Crouch occurred during one of their first class sessions. He had shared a quote by German theologian Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
After asking the students what they were thankful for, Crouch explained why he gave thanks.
“He brought up how he was thankful to be here at Olivet teaching,” Cloutier said. “He shared how much he cared about us.”
Although they mourn his loss, ONU nursing students will always remember Crouch’s cheery personality and caring heart.
“He was very excited to be there with us and teach us,” Cloutier said.
“He was the ‘jokester’ but he was also very intelligent,” Stevens noted. “He knew what he was doing, but he also
was not afraid to just be himself with us. That’s how I’m going to remember him.”
The nursing department is currently putting together a memory book for Crouch’s family, in which students can write notes describing their favorite experiences with him.
Dr. Mike Pyle of the biology department volunteered to take over Crouch’s classes for the rest of the semester, according to Draine. Nursing coach Tawni Buente will take over Crouch’s clinicals.