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        Alumni, College, Student

        100 years and counting: A family's legacy at Auburn

        April 29, 2024 By Alice Manning Touchette

        All News


        olmstead brothers standing next to each other

        Harbert College of Business students Patrick (left) and William Olmstead are graduating 100 years after their great-grandfather graduated from Auburn (then known as API) engineering.

        Olmstead brothers graduate this spring with a legacy of commitment, service and pride passed down through four generations of Auburn graduates

        In spring 1924, Theodore Poole Crane graduated from Auburn University (then known as Alabama Polytechnic Institute) with a degree in engineering and an activities resume that is impressive to this day. That young, ambitious man settled into an engineering career and family life in his hometown of Birmingham before making the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. Though he did not live to see it, Crane started a legacy of loyalty and service to Auburn that would last more than a century.

        This May, two of his great-grandsons, twin brothers Patrick and William Olmstead, graduate from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business, representing the fourth generation of Crane family members to graduate from Auburn. 

        “We’re just a fraction of the story,” said William Olmstead. “My great-grandfather has a remarkable story of service, character and love for Auburn. He was a hero and inspired all in our family to live up to his legacy. It’s a story worth sharing.” 

        Excellence and sacrifice

        Nicknamed “Feny” by his fellow students, Crane truly lived the Auburn Creed while an undergraduate. He committed himself whole-heartedly into student organizations, serving as vice president of his class and as a member of social clubs, the football team and the Army ROTC where he was a lieutenant. 

        Ted Feny Crane yearbook 1924

        “Feny is one of the most widely known, and popular members of our class,” reads his 1924 yearbook entry. “He is a combination of social lion and star athlete and few can surpass him in either of these. He has taken a keen interest in student activities, as you can judge from his honors, and the class of ’24 is proud to claim him.”

        Crane attended what is now the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering along with his two brothers, Lawrence and Morris. Following graduation, he returned to his hometown of Birmingham and began a career in industry. 

        “He married and had two young sons, including Ted Crane Jr., my father and Patrick’s and William’s grandfather,” said Anne Olmstead. “When World War II began, he felt a call to serve our country and joined the U.S. military.”

        Crane was a major under Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s command in the Philippines. Crane and his troops were captured and placed in a prisoner of war (POW) camp where they were starved and mistreated. According to reports corroborated by curators at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, Crane escaped from the POW camp and helped the local Philippine military fight against the Japanese before being recaptured. 

        “We have a letter dated Oct. 7, 1945, from Gen. MacArthur to my grandmother. It says that he was killed while being transferred on a POW ship in the Batan area of the Philippines,” Anne said. 

        Before his death, Crane received the Silver Star. Later, he was memorialized with the Purple Heart and POW medals. When the family visited the National Museum of the Pacific War in the 1980s, they learned more about his final day in WWII.

        “We know a lot about what happened that day because we met a survivor at the museum,” Anne said. “The veteran had been on the same ship as my grandfather. He told us the POWs were loaded on this ship from the camps, and the Japanese were transporting them to their mainland to put them into slave labor. This was very close to the end of the war. It’s very tragic in so many ways. The man we met was one of just two or three men that survived after the ship was attacked. And it was special that he knew my grandfather and could share his experience with us.” 

        Ted Crane Jr and grandson standing together

        Auburn alumni Ted Crane Jr. (left) and his grandson Travis Crane.

        Second generation engineers

        Crane’s sons — Ted Crane Jr. and Michael Crane — followed in their father’s footsteps and attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Ted earned his degree in chemical engineering in 1958. He continued his father’s legacy by serving in the Army ROTC, and he was a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers

        Following graduation, Ted married his wife, Barbara, and built a successful 45-year career with St. Regis Paper, Champion International and International Paper. He developed a deep love of Auburn and was dedicated to ensuring that students had the opportunity to complete their degrees. 

        In 1988, Ted founded the Auburn University Pulp and Paper Foundation and served as its first president and then as an officer or board member for many years until his passing. The foundation has raised over $3 million and has awarded several hundred scholarships to students to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn.

        In addition, Ted was instrumental in creating a Pulp and Paper Engineering curriculum in the college, ensuring training that prepares students for careers.

        “There are thousands of students who’ve been able to attend Auburn and receive scholarships from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering because of the foundation,” said Barbara Crane, Ted’s wife. “Because of my husband’s work, there is a successful, sustained legacy of helping the students complete their degrees and start careers in the industry.”

        Barbara Crane standing between grandsons

        Barbara Crane with grandsons Patrick and William Olmstead.

        For his service to Auburn, Ted received the Outstanding Alumni Award in 1989 from the Department of Chemical Engineering, and was elected to the Engineering Council in 1994. He received the Distinguished Engineering Award in 2003. 

        Following Ted’s passing in 2014, The Auburn University Pulp and Paper Foundation and Barbara Crane established the Theodore P. Crane Jr. Memorial Leadership Endowed Scholarship in the Ginn College of Engineering. To date, more than a dozen students have received this named scholarship. Barbara remains close with Auburn, attending engineering events, giving her time, resources and historical perspective on the Auburn Pulp and Paper Foundation.

        “I’m so proud of Ted’s legacy. There is paper research being done at Auburn in the chemical engineering department in part due to my husband’s efforts,” Barbara said. “He was instrumental in helping students financially to finish their degrees and moving the industry forward through their training. He helped connect the engineering program to many industry partners that now employ Auburn graduates. It’s wonderful.”

        William Olmstead standing next to Auburn Creed

        William Olmstead is earning his degree in management with minors in finance and entrepreneurship.


        Ted Jr. lived to see the third generation of Cranes go through Auburn when his son Ted Poole Crane III graduated from the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment in 1985. Of Ted Jr.’s five grandchildren, three have attended Auburn, including Ted III’s son Travis North Crane, who also graduated the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment in 2019. 

        This May, William and Patrick Olmstead will graduate from the Harbert College of Business 100 years after their great-grandfather, Ted “Feny” Crane. 

        “Growing up, we always spent time on weekends coming out for football games with my grandparents, my mom and my step dad so Auburn is home,” said Patrick, a finance major. “I’ve really enjoyed the business school, especially the people I’ve met in the finance program. Being at Auburn has fulfilled all of my dreams, and it's been amazing.”

        In step with the family tradition, both brothers have made the most of their time at Auburn. William boasts an impressive resume that includes the dean’s list, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society member, Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, Auburn Society for Human Resource Management member, Auburn Red Cross member, Auburn Outdoor Club member and community member for Habitat for Humanity of North Central Georgia. In addition, he has coached intramural sports and worked in ticket sales and operations for the Auburn Athletics Department.

        “Our great-grandfather and grandfather were models to us to live with the values of the Auburn Creed,” said William, who will graduate with a degree in business management and minors in finance and entrepreneurship. “I hope they would be proud of how we’ve spent our time at Auburn. I’ve really grown since I’ve been here. The College of Business has been great at preparing me through classes and career development, and I now have a passion for sports marketing.”

        Patrick has also kept busy as a Gamma Beta Phi National Honor Society member, Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity member, Tau Kappa Alpha Epsilon Fraternity member and member of Habitat for Humanity of North Central Georgia.

        Patrick Olmstead near Auburn Creed

        Patrick Olmstead is earning his degree in finance.

        On the brink of graduation, with their futures bright in front of them, the brothers reflect on the family legacy and their place in it. 

        “Learning about my great-grandfather’s story and the sad tragedy of how he gave his life for our country, it really shows his integrity as an Auburn man,” Patrick said. “We are an Auburn family and will always love it. Our legacy is to continue to live as he did and my grandfather did. They demonstrated that if you work hard and serve others, anything can happen and you can succeed.”