William Cross was 15-years-old when he began attending classes at the University of Chicago. It was 1942 and a scholarship allowed Cross to complete his final two years of high school and two years of college.
Cross then joined the Merchant Marines and was first assigned to deliver war supplies to Russia and Germany, and then later, deliver relief supplies. “There wasn’t much left of the cities when we made the deliveries,’ Cross remarked.
In 1947 Cross returned to school, this time to complete a bachelor’s degree in history education at Valparaiso University where he became a teaching assistant; a position he found both rewarding and beneficial. Cross also took a career aptitude test while at Valparaiso and the results indicated sociology was a better choice of profession for him. Knowing little about sociology and having a great interest in history education, the results were quite surprising to Cross. He remained on his original career path and completed his history education degree, but after graduation, Cross attended the Lutheran School of Theology from 1951 to 1954, graduating with honors. “I was asked by the minister at the local Bethel Lutheran Church to help at a church in the city,” said Cross. It was 1953 and it was through the minister that Cross met Ruth, the love of his life. They were married and lived in the college’s couples housing unit. Other students visited the Cross home to ask for help with their schoolwork. According to Cross, “My wife thought I was a born teacher.”
Cross became an ordained minister after one year of divinity school at the University of Chicago in 1955, and served as a parish minister at St. Mark’s Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan from 1955 – 1963. He then decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology at South Dakota State where he completed his doctoral thesis in 1971. The Cross family then moved to Jacksonville in 1972 where Cross began teaching at Illinois College and after 23 years of teaching he retired in 2005.
Cross isn’t the only teacher in the family. After his wife earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University in Macomb in 1980, she taught art classes for Jacksonville School Dist. 117 and the Department of Corrections.
Dr. Cross has been teaching Introduction to Sociology at Lincoln Land Community College in Jacksonville since 2009. Beginning Jan. 11, 2016, Cross will teach, “Sociology of Aging,” a new class to LLCC-J.
Friend and colleague, Dr. Kelly Dagan said of Cross, “I am amazed, but not surprised, that Bill is still teaching, when he could have easily retired by now. His love of learning and interest in passing on that love of learning to students is infinite.”
After decades of teaching, Cross offers this advice to teachers, “Try to work as a teaching assistant while in college, if possible. And observe other teachers, to learn different teaching styles.” He also recommends using a variety of teaching tools.
And his advice to students: “Attend class – only miss if there is an emergency. Ask questions, don’t assume your teacher knows you need help, or that you have questions.” Cross also suggests, “Set your goals and invest in your future. Go to college when you are ready. Be aware of your life balance: family, work, school and reflective time.” As husband to Ruth for 61 years and the father of two sons, John and Paul, Cross understands the importance of life balance and has lived his life practicing what he preaches.