University of Southern California

Greif Professor Who Has Mentored 5,000 Students to Retire
Bill Crookston Labeled a 'Rock' and an Institution’ by His Colleagues
May 13, 2011 • by News at Marshall

When William Crookston, professor of clinical entrepreneurship in the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies began teaching at Marshall after selling his trophy and badge company, he imagined he would do so for a couple of years before moving on.

"I never expected 25 years. I thought this would be a wonderful place to be temporarily and maybe get back into the business world in a few years. Then I realized that I could help with these companies the students were creating," said Crookston during a farewell party in his honor at the University Club on May 2. "Nothing excites me more than seeing a young person go out and become an entrepreneur. It's been a great run, a great journey. We don't talk about jobs or careers in entrepreneurship, we talk about journeys and, if I could replicate this, I would do it again in 100 years. It's just been incredible."

Crookston estimates that in his career at USC, he has counseled and mentored approximately 5,000 students. Speaking about Crookston's impact, USC Marshall Dean James G. Ellis said, "From the perspective of this school, when you think about this number, it is pretty staggering because that can translate into 5,000 families and 5,000 businesses, a huge, huge economic gain for the region."

Colleagues, former students and Marshall leaders shared their thoughts and memories during a heartfelt reception for Crookston, who has invested in more than a few of his students' ventures and made an indelible impression during his multi-decade career at USC. "He's been a keystone of this program," said Gene Miller, director of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship.

Tom O'Malia, director emeritus of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, reflected on the first time he met Crookston:

"I've known Bill since 1985, when he was getting his Ph.D. at Claremont College. I fell in love with this guy the first time I met him. I invited him here to see what we were doing, and that first day he was answering questions for people on topics that were not even in textbooks. That kind of spirit and desire and discussion is a hallmark of the entrepreneur center and it's been an incredible journey and it's been a total joy."

"Bill has clearly been the rock of the program for as long as I can remember. The love the students have for him but, more importantly, the love Bill has for the students has always been self-evident, year-in and year-out, for the past quarter-century" said Lloyd Greif, founding donor of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Crookston was more than a mentor for the students; he also has been an important resource for the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies faculty.

"Bill was my mentor from a faculty standpoint. He is an inspiration. He has a great business understanding, yet has a great way of getting that across in a way for the students to get a good takeaway. He is loved by his students, not just for being a great teacher, but a great person," said Tommy Knapp, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship.

"The most gratifying part of my career has been teaching these students and being on the faculty with Bill and the other bright members of this amazing community," said Patrick Henry, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship.

Chris Harrer, Marshall Partners Chairman (Partner Level), president and CEO, United Document Storage LLC, MBA '96, MSBA '00, knows Crookston in more than one context—as a faculty member, a student and an entrepreneur who sought out his assistance.

"The reason I teach at the Greif Center is because of Bill. He was a professor of mine in the executive MBA program when I met him back in 1994. I fell in love with entrepreneurship. I knew I wanted to get away from big business and into entrepreneurship because of the role model that this man provided. I've been able to start a few businesses since and Bill has been a great mentor, a great friend."

Rob Ukropina, managing partner at Black Diamond Ventures, Marshall alumnus and founder of Overnite Express, spoke about Crookston's efforts to go above and beyond to make his business a success. "Bill stepped up and wrote a check so we could make payroll. Both of my sons had him as a professor. My daughter was his TA. This is a person that has obviously invested in me and us, but Bill is also one of my best friends. He is the 'real deal'. He made a huge impact on my life."

"It's all about people. When you hear about people that are institutions, Bill Crookston is an institution. On a base level, the effect he's had on that many people, it's absolutely amazing. That's what it's all about," said Steven Mednick, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship in the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.