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In Memory

“Prof” Cross—A Life Well-Lived

Edward Fulton Cross lived a remarkable life. The proof is in words spoken in tribute at his funeral on Oct. 12, 2002, in the Walla Walla College Church.

Cross was known as friend, mentor, teacher, and pioneer of Adventist education—the founder of the first engineering department at any Seventh-day Adventist college. He was also deeply loved as a husband, father, and grandfather. His life was celebrated through many stories, testimonies, and anecdotes, from friends, family members, and engineering alumni.

Doug Clark, professor of biblical studies, summed up the feelings of the faculty and staff: “Although we all expected the news of Prof Cross’s death to come sometime soon, it is still profoundly sad to hear. Profound, because of the man he was, the career he achieved, the faith he lived and modeled. He meant a lot to us. Still does.”

“Prof Cross,” as many of his students called him, was asked to start an engineering program at WWC in 1947. He wrestled with the idea, but after many respected friends across the country recommended the move, he and his wife, Helen, became convinced that it was God who was calling them to WWC.

“My parents moved from the highly developed city of New York to a town with few sidewalks, and considerable mud,” said son Carlton Cross, professor of engineering. “The school buildings were army barracks, full of dust and spiders, with almost no teaching equipment.”

The first year 26 students declared engineering as their major.
Between 1947 and the mid-60s, Prof Cross participated in the design, remodel, and expansion of 13 campus buildings, and the department continued to grow. In 1971, the Engineer’s Council for Professional Development (now the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), granted the department national accreditation.

Cross chaired the Engineering Department until 1974, when it became the School of Engineering. Cross was designated Dean Emeritus and awarded an honorary doctorate. He continued to teach full time through 1979. The School of Engineering was renamed in his honor in 1991.

Charles Bell, who succeeded Cross as dean of the School of Engineering, speculates that without the efforts of Edward and Helen Cross, there may not even be a School of Engineering at WWC today. “An even greater tragedy,” said Bell, “would have been the loss of hundreds of engineering alumni who have greatly distinguished themselves all over the world, by using their engineering skills to bring Jesus’ comforting benefits of health, safety, and convenience to thousands of His people.”

“I can tell you that [my father] considered all of the engineering graduates to be the reason for his success,” said Carlton Cross to the alumni who attended the memorial service. “He was honored that you came, and it was a privilege for him to be your teacher.”

At various times Prof Cross served as College Place city engineer, city councilman, and as a member of the Walla Walla Valley Transit Board. In 1995, the Washington Society of Professional Engineers recognized his contributions to the state with the presentation of their most prestigious honor, the Columbia Award.

Cross was a charter member of the Walla Walla College Church, where he served as elder and board member for many years, and attended faithfully until just the last couple of months of his life. On the rare occasion when no one was available to help him to church, he could be found at home, dressed in his suit, listening to the service on the radio.

“As I have watched my father during these last few months,” said Carlton Cross, “I have seen the great peace and satisfaction that have come to him because he chose to do what God called him to do … He was content that he had done what he could do.”

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