David Cravey ’72 Reflects on How UCF Changed His Family’s Trajectory

David Cravey ’72, at right, recently visited UCF  with his wife, Linda Cravey, and their grandson, Elijah Atwood. Eli was recently admitted to UCF and will start this fall in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

By Camille Dolan ’98

David Cravey ’72 never expected to go to college. He hailed from a poor, hardworking family in Pine Hills, had a learning disability that was undiagnosed until he was 25, and was not athletically gifted. He figured he would do what other poor, Southern kids do when college wasn’t an option. He would join the Army.

Cravey had grown up seeing the neighborhood children going off to war; in 1965, three years before Cravey graduated from high school, United States Marines were the first wave of combat troops to come ashore at Da Nang in Vietnam. As the son of a World War II veteran, he also saw many of his older friends enlisting for service, and thought that it was a reasonable, patriotic thing to do.

As he told Linda, his then-girlfriend, now-wife, of his plan, she quickly put the kibosh on it.

Absolutely not, Linda said. She insisted that he enroll with her at Valencia Junior College, which had opened in 1967. Linda Cravey was going to be a teacher; even if her fiancé wasn’t totally on board with college, she knew that having an education benefits everyone.

As Cravey was deciding what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, the Florida Legislature was forging ahead with its plans to increase salaries for university faculty, fund more junior colleges, improve continuing education, institute year-round education in Florida’s state universities, and secure funds for what would become the University of West Florida, Florida Atlantic University, and the University of Central Florida (Wikipedia).

Recently, Cravey looked back on how different his life could have been, and the incredible change that having an education at UCF had made in his life.

Cravey’s parents. George and Louise Cravey, worked hard to instill within their five children the importance of family and a strong work ethic.

His mother, a star student at Clermont High School, was offered a full ride scholarship to Florida State University, a remarkable fact considering that her father could not read or write. Louise Cravey had to turn down the scholarship; her mother had recently passed away, and Louise was the only one in the family who could tend to the family business.

George Cravey graduated from Orlando High School in 1942 and served

in the 2nd Field Artillery in the European Campaign. When he came home, he became a plumber/steamfitter, and also served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Lakehill Baptist Church in Orlo Vista.

David Cravey has done extensive genealogical research on his family. He discovered that his mother’s side of the family moved to Florida from South Carolina after their home was burned out by Gen. William T. Sherman’s army on its infamous march to the sea. They had originally settled in the Ocala National Forest.

“It’s been a journey,” Cravey says. “We’re not pioneer families but we’ve been here a long time. Dad’s parents moved to Polk County in 1920 from Georgia after the boll weevil got their cotton, and the cholera got their hogs.”

Cravey’s own family history fascinates him – and not just because of the richness of the stories he has found. He is impressed by the achievements that his family continues to make, and he attributes it to the education he received at UCF.

All three of his grandchildren are attending college on scholarships, and his grandfather could not read or write.

“I’d say we’ve come a long way,” Cravey says.

One of his grandchildren was selected for the Pegasus Gold scholarship, awarded to entering students to recognize outstanding academic performance.

“In my grandson, Elijah Atwood, UCF has gotten an outstanding person,” Cravey says. “He’s like an old man in a young man’s body. He has an engineer’s mind. He will go far academically. He’s a nerd like me. I’m just so proud of him. He was accepted at UF but chose UCF on the strength of its engineering program.”

Cravey still kind of marvels at his children’s and grandchildren’s achievements.

“It was difficult in school,” Cravey says.  “I was always embarrassed to be at the bottom of the class.”

He didn’t get glasses until he was 15 years old. But even that adjustment just gave his classmates more fodder for bullying. Now they could make fun of the kid who was a poor student and a poor athlete for wearing glasses.

Still, Cravey persevered.

He and Linda were married after they graduated from Valencia, and Linda continued to push him to attend UCF.

“It was an hour-long commute from my house,” Cravey says. “I had rebuilt the motor in my 1964 Mercury convertible and had to park in the sand lot with everyone else.”

Cravey brought a sandwich with him and had to immediately go to work as a concrete refinisher after his classes.

“UCF gave me a door that I never thought I’d go through,” Cravey says.

And even though he found the coursework easy, Cravey never really understood why his penmanship did not measure up to his classmates.

“I have always printed my letters, block style,” Cravey says. “I never knew why until Linda, who was in graduate school at the time, read about a learning disability called dysgraphia. It’s a disconnect between the hand and the brain; basically, I couldn’t read my own writing.”

Still, Cravey was able to not only succeed in business, but has thrived. He says that education is key to success; it is possible to achieve success without education, but it is so important to have training of some kind.

“I find myself to be a simple man and a complex man at the same time,” Cravey says. “I am grateful to UCF for providing me the opportunity to educate myself, and to have had the experience of higher education and the clarity. It just provided me such a gift.”

Cravey’s journey is the latest step in the transition of what his family has gone through for the last 150 years, he says.

“UCF gave me the ability to speak and polished a rough stone,” Cravey says. “It was a good experience for this Knight, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.”

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