Campus renamed to honor education leader and visionary

Arizona's first joint technological education district celebrates 20 years of excellence

December 15, 2011

Dr. A. Keith Crandell posing next to his bust sculpted by Rusty Bowers.

Dr. A. Keith Crandell posing next to his bust sculpted by Rusty Bowers.

In celebration of 20 years of excellence in education and to honor his commitment, dedication and service to the East Valley Institute of Technology, the main campus located at 1601 W. Main Street in Mesa, was officially renamed the Dr. A. Keith Crandell Campus on Dec. 12, 2011.

“For many years, EVIT has been referred to as the house that Keith built. Thanks to his perseverance, vision and determination, thousands of students have been turning their passion into a paycheck” said Superintendent Dr. Sally Downey. “This is just a small token of our appreciation for what Dr. Crandell has done for career and technical education in Arizona and we look forward to carrying forward his legacy into the next twenty years and beyond.”

Dr. A. Keith Crandall began teaching business classes in Mesa, Arizona in September of 1958. It was during this time of working with young people, that he developed his belief that every student should graduate from high school with a marketable skill, regardless of their plans after high school. He worked diligently in the Mesa School district and was ultimately promoted to the director of Vocational Education. 

In 1973, Crandell developed a bold plan to bring all students interested in vocational classes to one location. They could attend their regular school half of the day and attend the vocational school the other half. He applied for grant funds and was one of two school districts in the United States granted funding to write vocational curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade.

While staking his career on what many thought was a crazy idea, and with approval from Mesa’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Smith, the old, half-burned Mesa High building became Mesa Vo-Tech and students from all three Mesa schools began attending the programs. While there was often minimal funding to repair classrooms or shops, Crandell and his teachers would grab tools and make the repairs themselves. No effort was too great to get classes up and running.

This new school concept was so popular and successful in Mesa that other school districts in the metro Phoenix area asked to send their students as well.

With tremendous support from Allan Brooks, a Mesa businessman who also served on the board for Mesa Public Schools, Crandell then led the crusade to form Arizona’s first joint technical education district. In the general election in November of 1990, his dream became a reality. Taxpayers approved what the legislature already had—a joint technical education district serving students from ten school districts in career and technical education.

Since it was now its own school district, the school was renamed East Valley Institute of Technology. Crandell was the school’s first superintendent beginning in August of 1991.

In 1994, Crandell retired as Superintendent of East Valley Institute of Technology, but promptly ran for the school board and won. During his tenure on the board, he has continued to watch legacy and vision grow and evolve. In 1998, EVIT opened its $46 million dollar main campus. In 2007 and 2011, new Health Science buildings were added and in 2011, a new 10-acre branch campus opened in east Mesa.