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Davidson offers a longing homecoming to Crocker, who was born here. His father, John, taught college German in the late 1960s before taking a position at North Carolina Central University in Durham. He later retired to The Pines at Davidson.

Other connections abound. His sister, Becky Crocker Delany ’86, is now a family doctor in nearby Cabarrus County. And his mother, Anne Crocker, lived in Concord until her death last spring.

Crocker’s parents met in Germany. John Crocker was an engineer who worked for the US government on rebuilding Germany and Austria after World War II. Anne Crocker was the daughter of an Air Force chaplain stationed there.

His parents were both fluent in German and raised their four children to learn about the literature and customs of other cultures. This shaped Crocker for a life that he often spent in other countries.

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He studied abroad in Paris as a student at Princeton University. He raced for the Princeton road bike team and considered pursuing it as a career. Competing at Elite/Category 1 level, he failed to make the US national team despite a few domestic and international podiums and chose other avenues.

Fresh out of college, he ended up leading an oil exploration operation in Angola. Along with the blistering heat, he encountered the dangers of being abroad during a civil war. He was robbed at gunpoint and lived with the ever-present risk of being kidnapped.

“I was 22 years old, scared, lonely and living in a trailer,” he said. “I knew it was dangerous and didn’t want to be there.”

He said the experience helped him build skills he would need throughout his professional life. After a year he returned to the United States, worked for a railroad, then for the US Foreign Service. He briefly left government work for tech startup jobs in California, then returned for a 20-year career. He also earned degrees in Economics and Engineering from MIT and in External Relations from the University of Virginia.

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The wanderlust – and the urge to do public service – remained.

He started at the US State Department and later moved to the Department of Commerce. He transitioned abroad with duties in Washington, DC. His most recent position was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia.

Former US Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, his superior during a post in Panama, said she always appreciated Crocker’s sound advice and analysis. She said he has a keen ability to break down complicated information about logistics and budgets to advise US policymakers.

“He was the rare Foreign Service officer who’s also an MIT-trained engineer,” she said, then joked, “He was also one of the few who could do math.”

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Stephenson is now Vice Provost for Global Affairs at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Crocker served on the board of the Foreign Services Association during her presidency between 2017 and 2019, “at a time when some elected leaders were making a concerted effort to undermine diplomacy,” she said.

This included cutting budgets, staff and international relations. She said Crocker helped rally bipartisan support to maintain key diplomatic policies and functions.

“Dan knows how to build a coalition and he works hard to maintain relationships,” Stephenson said. “He brings people together to solve problems, he connects with purpose and always with integrity. When Dan brings you together, you will know that what you have done will make things better.”

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