Richard Francis Earl Crang

Crang Richard

Richard Francis Earl Crang (81) passed away on April 13, 2018 at his home in La Grange Highlands, IL. He is survived by his wife Mary; two sons, Steven (Diane) and Douglas (Kate); four grandsons, Alexander, Eliot, Evan and Nathaniel; and three adult step-sons. He was preceded in death by his half-sister, Shereë North, a motion picture, Broadway play and television star; and his half-brother, Richard A. Crang, a World-War II marine and later a public-school teacher.

Born in Clinton, IL, he was raised in Los Angeles, CA and in Danville, IL.  He was a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, and received his master’s degree at the University of South Dakota and his Ph.D. in Botany at the University of Iowa.  He later carried out a year of post-doctoral work in Botany and Physiology at Clare Hall of the University of Cambridge, England.

He held academic positions at Wittenberg University (Springfield, OH), Bowling Green State University (OH), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and The City University of New York.  At UIUC, he served for 12 years as the Director of the Center for Electron Microscopy; two years as Associate Head of the Department of Plant Biology; and over two years as a Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Dr. Crang received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship to support his pioneering work in the development of an online course and electronic textbook in Plant Anatomy. He later guided development of the first online academic courses in Nursing and Pharmacy at the University of Illinois.

He served for several years as a member and Chair of the National Research Council graduate fellowship committee for the National Science Foundation. He was sponsored by the Federal EPA and the US Department of State to carry out research work at the Komarov Botanical Institute in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) Russia during the 1980s.  He also held residential research appointments in microscopy at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology in Dortmund, Germany and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

Dr. Crang is the only U.S. Plant Biologist to be awarded Fellowship status by the International Society of Environmental Botanists. While at Bowling Green State University, he was the first recipient of the University’s Outstanding Research Award.  Later, Dr. Crang was named the second recipient of the Outstanding Service Award of the Electron Microscopy Society of America.

He has been the author/co-author of six textbooks, over 70 academic papers, and over one hundred abstracts, short papers and submitted contributions in the fields of microscopy and plant biology.  His most recent work has been as co-author for a just-completed comprehensive textbook on Plant Anatomy.

As Professor Emeritus, he carried out humanitarian missionary work in Colombia and was on the instructional faculty at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea. Relentlessly curious, he traveled to 41 countries where he eagerly engaged with local people and enthusiastically explored local cultures. He was a lover, collector, and supporter of art.

He was a member of the Presbyterian Church and served as Deacon and Elder at the Riverside, IL Presbyterian Church.

Visitation with the family will be Tuesday, April 17, 2018 from 1:00 P.M. to time of service 2  P.M. at Hitzeman Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 9445 W. 31st St., Brookfield, Illinois   60513.  Interment Private.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Plant Biology Annual Fund in the Dept. of Plant Biology at UIUC in Dr. Crang’s name at or Department of Plant Biology, 265 Morrill Hall, MC-116, 505 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801.  Information 708-485-2000 or

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Messages of Condolence

  1. Norma H. Nichols condolence:

    On behalf of my colleagues at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, I would like to offer our sincere condolences at the news of Dr. Crang’s passing on to his eternal home. Dr. Crang was not with us for a long period, but his work was significant and was much appreciated. His students at PUST respected him and wished for him to stay and teach longer. On a personal note, I worked fairly close to him and came to know him fairly well. It was my pleasure to know him and to enjoy his zest for life, his genuine caring for our students and his great curiosity about the country and the people. He represented the USA well and was a great ambassador for the Lord.

  2. Reg Noble condolence:

    Sorry to learn about Dick, a special friend and former colleague. While at BGSU we coauthored several research papers and shared responsibility for advising graduate students. Some of my fondest memories relate to our long hours in the EM lab as well as travels to the USSR working on collaborative projects with our Soviet counterparts. I cherish memories of Dick and and exten sincere condolence to Doug and Steve.

  3. Vernie G. Sagun condolence:

    Rest in peace, Sir.

  4. John Kuehn condolence:

    Richard was a good friend and fellow fraternity brother while at Eastern Illinois. I remember him for his lively wit, sense of humor, enthusiasm about life and strong values. He will be greatly missed.

  5. Terence Leung W.K. condolence:

    I am saddened by Richard’s passing. Doug and Kate, Steven and Diane, and Mary, please accept my sincerest condolences on your loss. I have many happy memories of spending time with Richard and this extended family, from Chinese dim sum dinning to thanksgiving gathering to day tour in museum together, in Hong Kong and Chicago. He had always been the enthusiastic, compassionate and intriguing teacher and friend. May many wonderful moments and joyful times be filled in all of us and together we celebrate a life well lived.

    Terence Leung, W.K., brother of Kate Leung Crang, April 16, 2018

  6. Joshua Song condolence:

    Sorry to hear the loss of my friend, Craig… Hope to find the hope and peace with his family at this dificult time. I am sure hes is in peace with our Lord, Jesus Christ.
    I didn’t know him until I met him @ Pyong Yang of DPRK while teaching.. Great teacher and mentor for his students and fellow Professors. Good to know him in my life journey. Joshua

  7. Bonnie Brenner condolence:

    Dear Mary, Steven, Doug, and family,
    My deepest condolences for your loss. Richard Crang saved my academic career at the U of I. He sheltered me from the trials and tribulations of academic politics, and was truly an inspiration to so many of us. His positive adventurous spirit was infectious, and his stories of escapades abroad still echo in my memory. I will miss him very much.

  8. John J. Bozzola condolence:

    Dear Mary, Douglas, Steven and family,

    I’m so very sorry to hear that Richard is gone from this life. I’ve known Richard for nearly 20 years and, besides the professional association, regarded him as a good friend. He will always be a highly esteemed professional whose contributions to plant biology and electron microscopy will be remembered for many years. I met several of his students when he brought them down to visit our facility and use our equipment. He gave several very interesting lectures in my course and the students always enjoyed the presentations, especially when he injected his personal experiences and amusing anecdotes with famous microscopists.

    More importantly, though, were his personal contributions to the lives of all those with whom he shared his life experience. Richard and I spent many hours talking late into the night and his adventures all over the world never ceased to amaze me. Every time we talked, there was another adventure he would relate — and I never heard one of them repeated. There was the time in Russia when he visited a deep coal mine and the miners asked if he would like to run the gigantic, automatic mining machine. They turned over the operation to Richard and then left him totally in charge of the dangerous equipment to take a vodka break. After what seemed like an eternity, they returned to find Richard had made great progress in the mine and asked if he would like a permanent job, which he gratefully declined.

    Richard had an incredible sense of humor and would go to great lengths to pull off elaborate tricks. Once, I asked him to bring back some Chinese artwork from one his his trips to Hong Kong. He returned with an antique looking scroll and proceeded to tell me all about the history of the painter and how revered he was in Chinese culture. He prolonged my anticipation of viewing the artwork for a long time by telling of his travels in Hong Kong and his visits with his family. Then, after a snack and some drinks, he asked if I would like to see the scroll unrolled. He slowly unrolled the antique-looking scroll, sometimes rolling it back up to make another comment, and then finally made the great reveal. It was a hybrid scroll comprised of a Chinese background with an enlarged image of myself interjected into the scene, a PhotoShop masterpiece that must have taken a long time to produce. It is a treasured piece for me. Then, of course, he showed me the real artwork that I have framed and on my wall. It means a lot to me, especially now.

    There were many, many such adventures in his life and I do hope he wrote them down, since it would read like the adventures of Indiana Jones. Every time I see the Dos Equis beer commercial on TV, I think of Richard Crang and say to myself “That must be Richard Crang, The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

  9. Arthur Mantzouris condolence:

    Im so very sorry for the loss of losing yr dear loved one, which Im sure that many will miss him dearly. But there is a very comforting message of real hope that you can count on and it comes from the Bible in which we find, Jesus Christ speaking to us in John 5:28,29 to which he is letting us know that he will resurrect yr dear loved one back to life again and give him the opportunity to live forever on a peaceful earth, like it says in the Bible book of Psalm 37:29 to which it reads: The righteous will posess the earth and they will live forever on it. So one day in the future all of you will be able to welcome him back into yr loving arms to be with forever.

  10. Patrick Dailey condolence:

    I was very sad to hear about the passing of Richard. He was my professor, mentor, and friend for the past 40 years. As a graduate student I leaned on Richard for many research projects and publications. He was always graciously willing to help. I remember after one of his return trips from Russia he invited me to come to Champaign-Urbana for a visit. He had procured several Russian liquors’and we sampled a few. Then came the Peppered Vodka. He poured me an 8 ounce glass and said ‘drink up in one gulp’. I grimaced but gave in. After the endless gulp, my throat burned for several minutes. He couldn’t stop laughing and after my throat cooled I too started laughing. Needless to say we had an enjoyable weekend. I give Richard all the credit for my interest in electron microscopy. Several of my large publications could never have been accomplished with Richard’s expertise. I am fortunate to have known such an interesting and intelligent man. I am so sorry Mary, Steven, and Douglas for your loss. Fond memories of Richard will stay with me. His was a friendship worth having.

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