A Conversation with John Crossman, CEO, Crossman and Company Chair, FAMU College of Law Dean’s Advisory Council / FAMU Foundation Board Member
(The third in a series of profiles of FAMU Law Faculty, Leadership, and Program Directors)
Interviewer: How does the focus of Real Estate education on the HBCU campus lend itself to eliminating challenges faced in the black community?
John Crossman: My short answer is, “It’s a pillar.” After the Civil War, African-Americans were specifically denied the right to own property. A lot of trans-generational wealth comes through property ownership. If a group is denied owning real estate, there is a lack of wealth creation and a lack of education about it. When people in communities have higher rates of home ownership they tend to have better schools. They tend to be more likely registered to vote. They’re more in touch with leaders. They have better law enforcement. The trickle-down effect goes on and on. But that education is an investment scheme. Historically, HBCU’s have not taught real estate. But FAMU Law does. My company started a real estate club and we endowed the first ever real estate scholarship at FAMU. Now, we’re teaching real estate to students at HBCU’s who are going to become CEOs and lawyers.
Interviewer: You bring a lot to this campus. You’re not a lawyer. But, you are Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council. How is being a non-lawyer advantageous in this role?
John Crossman: I’m a non-attorney and non FAMUan, right. So, someone would say, “What’s up with that?” And it would be a fair question. The first thing I would tell them is my relationship with HBCUs starts at birth. I look at FAMU Law as this wonderful light that is providing solutions and solving problems. I’ve had a high level of respect for the law school and a high level of heart for FAMU my whole life. What I specifically bring is marketing. I’m very networked in the community and I have a large presence. One of the challenges for the law school is becoming known. So I want to do all I can to help promote the law school in my circles, and in my world.
Interviewer: Tell me about the vision you have for the Dean’s Advisory Council.
John Crossman: A large aspect of my vision is to have increased visibility from a marketing perspective and a high level of connectivity in making sure we’re connected to top leaders in the community and that people know about us, and then think about us. It’s important that we get the law school connected with the legal community where the top 100 law firms in Orlando offer to guest lecture, mentor students, and help them pass the bar exam. Another part of my vision is to get these firms to hire law students as interns and recruit them as graduates. Of course, people can donate money. That’s a great thing. But what I’m looking for is relationship, so that the firms feel that with the law school they are part of the FAMU community.
Interviewer: What does FAMU contribute to the community that other law schools may not?
John Crossman: Diversity. I think diversity brings tremendous strength to community. I think diversity makes Orlando great. I have always said that diversity is not about lowering the bar. Diversity is about casting the net. What that brings to our community, is a big deal. It’s the only law school in downtown Orlando. I think about the thought of a young lady right now being born in Paramore, to grow up and have access to the Boys and Girls Club, to be able to get an AA degree at Valencia College, and get a bachelor’s degree at UCF, and, then FAMU Law School. With all four of those things happening within walking distance from where she was born, that is awesome!
Interviewer: What do you think is the future viability for HBCUs?
John Crossman: FAMU has a family, the family at FAMU is awesome, and that family is very kind to let me in the door. But I will tell you that the family of students I see, are some of the most exceptional students I’ve seen in America. I’ve guest lectured at every major university in the state of Florida, and I would tell you that my favorite lecture experience is at FAMU’s SBI, and it’s not close. I would also challenge anybody to tell me otherwise, after experiencing what I experienced. So, I think absolutely HBCUs are viable. Now the question becomes, “What’s next?” Well, just like everything else in life, HBCUs need evolving. In some ways they need to stay the same, and some things need to change radically. The fact that FAMU Law and the FAMU Foundation asked me to join their board says something. I see my role as transitional. It’s temporary. It’s a job I’m going to do for two years and do all I can and then I’ll be a cheerleader. If you’re connected to me through social media, you know that I talk about HBCU’s subsidiaries like FAMU. If you know that I have a book out, you will notice that my book is endorsed by a professor of FAMU and I talk about FAMU.
Interviewer: Tell me about your book.
John Crossman: My book is called, Career Killers Career Builders. It’s for every college student in America, every millennial, and every young professional. But if you read it, you’ll notice there are some stories in there about FAMU. I try to use every opportunity to shine a light on FAMU.
Interviewer: What does the FAMU Law brand mean to you?
John Crossman: To me, the brand means opportunity. I think about the deep problems our society and community locally, regionally, and nationally are facing and I see the opportunity for FAMU Law to be a solution, and I get excited about that!