Paul Ballantyne Crookston was the youngest child in a family of three boys and three girls, reared on a small dairy farm in North Logan, Utah. In high school Paul was active in sports and also in student government, an interest he would continue to pursue in college. As a boy he enjoyed fishing, hunting, camping, and riding horses. His passion for the Boy Scouts of America began in his youth as he worked on his Eagle Scout award. His commitment to scouting followed him into adulthood, as evidenced when he received the Silver Beaver Award.
As a young man, Crookston served as a missionary in the Western States Mission. He returned to earn his bachelor’s degree in biology from Utah State University and met his wife, Tonita, also an educator. Since their marriage in the Logan Latter-day Saint temple in 1959, Paul and Tonita have had the opportunity to be not only partners in marriage but professional colleagues as well.
Upon graduating from Utah State, Paul entered the army and moved his family to Ft. Detrick, Federick, Maryland, where he spent two and a half years at the Army Biological Laboratories working as an executive and training officer. After Paul’s military service, the Crookstons moved to Salt Lake City where both Paul and Tonita taught school and took graduate courses. The family moved to California where Paul taught high school science. Returning to Utah, Paul entered the doctoral program at BYU and taught BYU courses in educational psychology and in human growth and development, as well as directing student teaching seminars. Tonita continued to teach and received a master’s degree in education from BYU as a reading specialist.
The family moved to Washington where Paul was appointed assistant professor of education at Central Washington State College. He taught courses in curriculum and instruction, served as assistant chair of the Education Department, and later became director of the Washington Center for Early Childhood Education.
Paul and Tonita returned to Utah and settled in Price, where Paul worked at different times as principal for three different elementary schools. In his role as principal, he worked to obtain grant funding and oversaw the building of infrastructure for a school containing multiple special education programs and self-contained classrooms. Paul founded and developed the curriculum for the first alternative high school in the Carbon School District. Paul and his wife have served in regional and state level positions in principal organizations. For six years he was an officer, including president, of the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals.
Paul’s family has been his greatest joy. Paul taught his four children to love the process of learning, encouraging all of them to obtain a college education. His son Kendall remembers watching his father’s passion as he worked tirelessly on his doctoral dissertation. The children quietly observed their father’s determination, strongly impressed to become passionate in both their professional and personal lives. Kendall has admired his father for continually putting the family’s needs before his own. Paul encouraged his sons and grandsons to participate in the Boy Scouts and has helped all of his sons obtains their Eagle Scout Awards. He has also encouraged his sons to serve Latter-day Saint missions and to remain active and loyal as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Paul and Tonia have been loving parents to their own children and have opened their home to others, including a teenager who lived with the family for many years and was brought up as their own. At various times the Crookstons have also invited exchange students from the Philippines, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the Hopi nation to live with their family. In addition, they have generously opened up their family ranch and cabin to several Latter-day Saint groups, hosting numerous Stake Girls Camps, ward youth super activities, Scout Camps, and other Church events. Both Paul and his wife have proven that they are committed to serving the Church unselfishly, a value they have instilled in their children.
Despite a demanding professional career and family responsibilities, Paul has always put church service at the forefront of his life. He served as bishop of the Price Seventh Ward for several years. He and his wife have served as temple workers in the Manti, Jordan River, and Palmyra temples. They have also had the opportunity to serve two missions together in Palmyra, New York, for six months in 2007 and again in 2008. Their mission president stated, “Paul is an exceptional person. He distinguished himself quickly in terms of his service orientation—his high work ethic, his knowledge of the gospel overall, the breadth of his experience and his natural leadership skills. Because of his intellect, logical thinking and management skills, we were able to use him in a variety of capacities in our temple organization.” The Crookstons are currently serving in the new Oquirrh Mountain Temple.
Dr. Steven L. Merrill, one Paul’s childhood friends, speaks of Paul with great respect and admiration. “Brother Crookston’s life epitomizes a life of generosity and service, slow to anger, quick to forgive—an example to all of the good life of the good man. He has always been nothing less than the ultimate example of how I can better live my life. Paul is a man of great integrity and strong character. His service to community, BYU, country, church, and education has had a profound effect on everyone he has associated with.” Paul’s professional pursuits, familial relationships, and friendships have resulted in a fulfilling and rich life.
November 13, 2009