Winston B. Crisp, who helped marshal USC students through the COVID-19 pandemic as vice president of student affairs, resigned Wednesday, citing health reasons. He had been on a leave of absence since October.
During his tenure, “Vice Crispy,” as he uses on social media, arrived at USC in 2019 and always had a story to tell.
“He loved sharing his experiences and always made sure to check in. I’m very grateful to have known him during my time at USC,” said Alexis Areias, president of the Undergraduate Student Government at USC.
Provost Charles F. Zukoski, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, praised Crisp in an email about his contributions to the university. Crisp’s innovative measures during the “unusual experience” of the COVID-19 pandemic helped students cope with the demands of an isolated existence.
Reminiscing about the role Crisp played during the reopening of campus this fall, Zukoski said he was astounded at how well he got along with students.
“We got inside where there were students there with loud music and there were dancing and people sitting around a table,” Zukoski said of one welcoming event on campus. “And what was so much fun with Winston, he just lit up and glowed as we would walk up to the table, and he had conversations with students about what they were doing.”
What stayed with Zukoski was how effortlessly Crisp interacted with students while also being pragmatic about the realities the pandemic brought on.
“He was saying, ‘Now look, you have to be careful. The first two weeks are the most dangerous times for you. You’ve got to be careful, but go out there and fight on,’” said Zukoski.
Before USC, Crisp was the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and forged close bonds with his students. During his time there, he prioritized students’ mental health and devised policies around it.
He created similar programs at USC as well, focusing on other facets of the students’ wellbeing, like equity and inclusion.
“You [students] are constantly in my thoughts,” Crisp said in an online video while students were taking classes remotely. “I very much miss seeing you out and about on campus.”
Areias felt that it was clear to the student government body that Crisp was a committed mentor on a personal and professional level.
“He was absolutely a trusted person that we could go to for advice and was always very committed to the student body,” Areias said. “It is very clear that he loved working with students and that was really his entire life and his career so obviously I’m very sad to see him go.”
The notice sent out Wednesday noted that Dr. Monique S. Allard, vice provost for Student Affairs, would step in as interim vice president.
“Since October, he [Crisp] has been out due to health reasons,” Areias said. “So we have been working with her [Allard], and she’s been phenomenal. I’m not sure what will happen with any permanence, but I think she’s been really helpful.”
Zukoski declined to detail the nature of Crisp’s health concerns.
The story has been updated with minor edits.