When David Croxford was residing at his home in Ohio in 1989, he decided to take control of his life and unapologetically claimed his identity so he could truly be himself.
“I came from a small place in Ohio where it was just not OK to be gay, but I made the decision that it was just going to be who I was,” said Croxford.
After openly accepting and expressing his sexuality, Croxford was subjected to bullying from his peers. He persevered through this harsh treatment and began focusing on his career, which has taken him from his small Ohio town to a bustling university in Sarasota.
As the office manager for Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook’s office at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, he is responsible for taking care of and reporting to the chancellor about USF payrolls, accounting and purchasing.
A major aspect of his position as office manager is supporting his colleagues in all of their career endeavors. He is currently working with Sandra Justice, Sarasota-Manatee research administrator, on the Summer Writing Grant Workshops, which have been hosted by Justice and the Sarasota-Manatee office of research starting in 2018.
“The program walks participants through the grant writing process, features program presentations by federal sponsors, and introduces participants to a broader understanding of the research enterprise with 15 speakers over eight weeks,” said Justice.
In being Justice’s partner on this project, Croxford has taken on many roles. He is responsible for the Monday Message that provides faculty members with information regarding the week’s speakers. He also moderates each Wednesday’s workshops as well as Funding Friday, which is when the topic of finding and allocating funds is discussed, and also manages all the registration data, according to Justice.
Over the last year, Justice and Croxford have overcome unforeseen obstacles in their administration of the grant writing workshop. From the COVID-19 pandemic forcing all content to be strictly online to recent budget cuts from the state, they have still managed to organize what is gearing up to be a successful program, said Justice.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this program benefits greatly from David’s many contributions. The breadth and depth of the program continues to expand and improve, and with David’s help, we are providing a program of excellence that showcases the research enterprise at the University of South Florida,” said Justice. “David is even already thinking about how we can make improvements for the 2022 program.”
Prior to his success at USF, Croxford began his career working in various jobs across the country that centered around his interests in organization and management.
One of the first major jobs Croxford took was a position working in records management at the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation. Despite his initial reluctance to take the position, Croxford accepted the job with a hopeful and positive attitude.
“At the request of my then supervisor, I took the job and I thought, ‘I don’t want to work in records management, I’m going to be stuck filing all day long and it will be horrible,’ but it was nothing like that at all,” said Croxford. “It was probably one of the most interesting jobs I’ve ever worked.”
This job gave Croxford the opportunity to travel the country, sharing the records management program of his company with other companies in order to maintain compliance among them all, which was an aspect of his job he found captivating.
“While we began taking over other companies in different states, I was able to travel to those companies and take our records management program to them, so that we would all be in agreement under the same umbrella, and that was just fascinating to me,” said Croxford.
Croxford met his husband, Christopher Bolgiano, while Bolgiano was a graduate student. They got married on the anniversary of their first date and the couple will be celebrating 30 years of their relationship this November.
“We met when I was in grad school working on my Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. We met through mutual friends in Toledo,” said Bolgiano. “My first impression was that he was cute, bright and zazzy, and just a delightful person.”
The couple then pursued their career paths together when Bolgiano accepted his first postdoctoral position at Cornell University in July 1994.
Upon their arrival at Cornell, Croxford and Bolgiano found out they were the first gay couple to attend the benefits orientation for same-sex couples and to go through human resources training.
“It was a very awkward situation for the woman who was training us. We were fine with it, but she was clearly not,” said Croxford.
Regardless of the uncomfortable position Croxford and Bolgiano were in during their training, they remained positive and not only focused on learning as much as they could, but they also wanted to create a comfortable space for their trainer to learn and grow as well.
“The only thing that we wanted to do was do our part to learn what we could from the orientation and enable that individual to sort of get through it, knowing that with more time and experience, it would probably be a much more comfortable situation for them as well,” said Bolgiano.
After spending most of their lives in the north, Croxford and Bolgiano made the decision to leave Cornell and move to Florida where they planned to retire.
When the couple arrived in Sarasota, Croxford worked as a financial analyst in the private sector before he applied for and took his current job at the regional chancellor’s office, which he has held for the past five years.
Croxford’s job as a financial analyst had been paying him more than what USF was offering. However, this was not Croxford’s concern, as he was more interested in working at a more secure job with a vibrant and accepting community.
“He left a higher-paying position to come to USF because his other position was not as secure as a good position at USF would be, and didn’t have the benefits that the USF position offers,” said Bolgiano. “So David took a pay cut to work at USF.”
When reflecting on his abundant career, Croxford identifies the fact that he has never been unemployed to be his greatest accomplishment. Croxford believes that helping someone reach a major career success is a privilege within itself.
“I’ve never been unemployed. I’m employable. So that’s a huge accomplishment for me. I have not achieved any huge accolades and that’s just fine,” said Croxford. “What I like to do is the best job that I can and know that I have a part in whatever accolades someone does achieve because they needed some help and I was able to give that to them.”
Lisa Barker, the special assistant to the regional chancellor at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, has attested to Croxford’s valuable presence in the workplace as well as the beneficial assistance he consistently provides his colleagues. She said Croxford’s presence in the workplace is not only enjoyable but also essential to the completion of many USF operations.
“Dave flourishes in his role and is a pleasure to work with and he is an integral part of the [USF Sarasota-Manatee] campus administration,” said Barker. “His ‘behind the scenes’ work is vital to the operations for a number of the senior leaders and their offices. Without Dave’s expertise with the USF processes and systems, completion of tasks would be stalled or not happening.”
Croxford’s feats are not limited to his extensive career experience. Following his self-acceptance, Croxford became increasingly involved in supportive efforts and celebrations in the LGBTQ community. With every relocation for work, he committed himself to attending pride parades in each new city.
”We certainly marched in our fair number of pride parades. We’ve attended in Sarasota, we attended in New York City and we attended events in Ohio,” said Croxford.
After finally settling down in Florida, Croxford dedicated himself to supporting the community efforts of the LGBTQ members in the Sarasota area, as well as other social justice movements. In addition to attending local pride parades, he, along with Bolgiano, attend the Church of the Trinity MCC (Metropolitan Community Church), which was originally founded for queer individuals who didn’t have a place to worship.
They also volunteer with Booker High School and the local African Methodist Episcopal Churches, both of which were established for members of the Black community to attend school and worship, respectively, during the era of segregation.
In 2019, Croxford and Bolgiano participated in Asolo Repertory Theatre’s “Faces of Change,” their annual, community-based documentary theater project focused on non-traditional marriages within the Sarasota community.
“They did a short documentary a couple of years ago. Christopher and myself and several other [LGBTQ] couples that we knew were involved with that, interviewed and we talked a little bit about our history,” said Croxford. “It’s nice to know that we weren’t the only ones.”
While Croxford is proud of his own service and involvement, he still believes that there’s room for progress and need for support within the LGBTQ community as a whole, especially among the transgender community.
“The transgender community still continues to struggle, especially transgender people of color,” said Croxford. “I think that what they go through, in moving from one gender to another, it has to be incredibly heroic. It’s so far beyond my understanding. So, it’s probably even further beyond other people’s understanding. My function, then, is to support them in whatever way that I can.”
Croxford also expressed his concern for the AIDS crisis, which remains a serious epidemic among young LGBTQ men within the U.S.
“I came out near the middle of that period of time, and the number of men who died is still mind-boggling to me and incredibly sad,” said Croxford.
At some point, Croxford would like to speak to the importance of the AIDS crisis, if the opportunity presents itself, regarding the history of the epidemic and the impact it had on the movement for LGBTQ rights. He believes it’s important to maintain LGBTQ history and ensure that people are aware of where they came from.
In the meantime, Croxford is adamant about remaining active in his service for the local queer community. He emphasizes that the best way to provide support, other than volunteership and mutual aid, is by simply being true to himself.
“Oftentimes I remember early on, I felt alone, thinking no one else was like me, and that’s not true,” said Croxford. “That’s why it’s really important for me to be just who I am. That way, even if somebody sees, even if they never say anything, they’ll know who I am and that they are not the only one.”