February 16, 2021
Written by Shannon McBride
Over the past decade or so, the role of fire departments across the nation has changed, especially in the age of the coronavirus. Fire calls have remained constant, but with the arrival of COVID-19, additional precautions have been taken for the health and safety of those they serve. Firefighters are often first to arrive to a call, and provide essential medical help until an ambulance arrives. It’s safe to say they are more than just firefighters—they are life savers.
Many firefighters are certified EMTs at the advanced level (Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians or Paramedics), so they qualify to receive additional training to administer vaccines. MHU alumnus Patrick Crudup ’95, now a Battalion Chief in the Asheville Fire Department (AFD), is leading the way for members of his company to answer the unusual call of duty: getting COVID-19-specific training to be able to assist Buncombe County officials at mass vaccination sites.
Patrick received his vaccinations a few weeks ago, and says he is ready to go! “I am willing to receive the vaccine so that I am able to help others in the more vulnerable population without the risk of passing the virus.”
As Battalion Chief, Patrick has many responsibilities. In the event of a call/accident, he is charged with ensuring the safety of his team, providing the necessary equipment and resources, and managing multiple units responding.
In high school, Patrick played football and basketball, and loved both. But he had to make the difficult decision on which to continue in college. Patrick was recruited by Coach Felton Stephens and Coach Steve Brown to play football, and came to Mars Hill in the summer of 1990.
Prior to his first visit to Mars Hill, Patrick had never been west of Winston-Salem. Home for him was in Bunn, NC, about 30 miles northeast of Raleigh.
“I liked Mars Hill because it felt like home to me…with its hometown atmosphere and friendly people.”
Patrick started out on offense as a wide receiver, but eventually switched to a defensive back. In his senior year, he started all 11 games on the Lions’ defense, recording 49 tackles with a team-high 12 pass breakups and two tackles for loss.
Defensive coaches Kevin Barnett and Chuck Phifer also had a significant impact on him as a young man, and Coach Phifer remembers Patrick as an outstanding player and man: “Pat was a very hard worker on and off the field. A very gifted athlete that played on both sides of the ball for us. A good person who would help anyone he could. I’m proud to have coached him.”
Patrick enjoyed having his brother, Stanley, and his cousin here with him. “Having my brother and my cousin also attend brought a sense of comfort while having to be in a new, unfamiliar environment. And it made the 4.5 hour drive home to Bunn not as bad.”
When asked about faculty or staff members who had a lasting influence on him, Patrick quickly mentioned Dr. Grainger Caudle, Dr. Craig Goforth, and now-retired administrative assistant for athletics, Linda Laughrun.
Dr. Goforth was in charge of campus security at the time and he was very protective of the students (Patrick’s parents were very appreciative of that). Dr. Caudle taught economics and was “very relatable.” And “Ms. Linda” was admired by many and was often referred to as the football team’s “college mom.” She did much to take care of the student-athletes on campus.
After graduating from MHC in 1995, Patrick worked for the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department, using skills he acquired while studying recreation administration. In 2002, he joined the Asheville Fire Department and completed the Firefighter Training Academy. Since then, he has worked hard to serve the AFD and has achieved the rank of Battalion Chief.
“It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized the full impact Mars Hill has had on me. The education, the friendships, the bonds with teammates and faculty—those things will always be a part of my life.”
Patrick returns to campus a couple of times a year to catch up with the coaches, and says he loves to see the new traditions established at the college such as the freshman hike up Bailey Mountain each fall. In his free time, Patrick enjoys spending time with his family, including his three children and sweet granddaughter. He also enjoys hiking, biking, and reading.
The true spirit of service runs in Patrick’s family. Patrick’s grandfather was a fireman, and his brother, Stanley Wheless, also a Mars Hill alumnus, is the principal of A.C. Reynolds Middle School in Asheville. Both professions call for an extraordinary amount of flexibility, selflessness, and love for community, especially now.