Bluffton, Indiana, was nicknamed “The Parlor City” over a century ago because its paved streets (a new phenomenon at the time) made the city “as clean as your parlor."
15 minutes with Garry Crites
What year did you graduate from Bluffton High School?
You are at Duke. Tell us about your work there.
I am the Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University, an organization that provides about 300 courses per year in the humanities, sciences, and wellness to 1,600 members, most of whom are aged 50 and above. I also teach courses in Celtic culture and religion.
Give us the short version of how you came to Duke.
After a decade and a half in the ministry, I decided to return to grad school and fulfill a lifelong dream of getting my doctorate. So my wife, my (then) teenage daughter and I packed our bags and moved to the Southeast from our home in North Dakota. I graduated from Duke with a PhD in Religion, specializing in the history of Early Christianity. After graduating, I stayed on at the university. After 16 years below the Mason-Dixon Line, I guess I am a proud Southern boy now, y'all.
Somewhere in your travels over the years have you ever bumped into anyone from Bluffton? Tell about the circumstances.
I was visiting a church here in Durham several years ago. A woman heard my last name, and asked if, by any chance, I was from Ohio. I said yes.
Bluffton? she asked. Yes!
Did I know Don Crites? He was my father!
It turns out that this woman's husband not only went to Bluffton College, but was a distant cousin of my dad and spent many an hour on our front porch at 561 South Main Street when I was a little boy!
How about staying in touch with any of your classmates? Which ones and where do they live?
I don't keep up with many in my graduating class, but I follow several from BHS via Facebook. Amy Jordan King and Kathy Alt Sehlhorst are both in Bluffton, Jon Krehbiel is in Tennessee, Kim Shinabery is in Colorado, and my cousin, Tom Clark, though making his home in Indiana, jets around the world as a wrestling official.
Did you take a quarry test? What lifeguard swam with you?
Oh, yeah. Passed it the first time! If my memory serves me right, I think the lifeguard was Jayne Hilty. Or maybe I was just so infatuated with her when I was young that all older girls have become her in my memory.
Be honest, you are a Crites, what's the worst prank you ever pulled in Bluffton schools?
Pranks? My brother John was the rowdy one-I behaved. I didn't even paint the street. The closest thing I did to a prank was climbing up the outside wall of BHS, through the window, and into Mr. Herr's second story classroom while he was lecturing. I just said, "Excuse me!" and walked through the class and out the door.
Did you have a summer job in Bluffton? Where did you work and how much did you make an hour?
I worked at the Beaverdam Truck Stop. I don't know what I made, but I know that if they kept my entire paycheck, it would never have compensated them for all the things I broke and screwed up. There is probably still a gas pump being dragged behind some semi in Michigan that got yanked off the island because I forgot to remove the hose from the truck's fuel tank.
What's the latest book you are reading?
The Art of Noncomformity. It really describes my philosophy of life and my personal history.
Seen any good (or really bad) movies lately?
Much to my wife's delight, I am a huge fan of chick flicks. We just saw The Lucky One, the most recent movie by local writer Nicholas Sparks. It got horrible reviews-which is usually a sure sign that I will like the movie! I did.
When someone asks where you are from, how do you describe where Bluffton is?
If they are clueless about Ohio, I tell them it is in Northwest Ohio-the section of the state that Toledo is in. If they are vaguely aware of Ohio's layout, I tell them it is between Lima and Findlay. And if they know Ohio really well, I tell them to shoot up I-75 until they smell the aroma of breaded mushrooms being deep-fried at the Dairy Freeze.