Hall of Fame Golfer Found the Right Fit Academically in BVU

Math and chemistry double-major, Crank helped Beavers to two conference team titles

As Buena Vista University 2002 graduate Dr. Deborah (Zorn) Crank ’02 reflects on her induction into the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame, her first thoughts don’t revolve around her three Iowa Conference MVP honors or her conference medalist effort her senior year.

Instead, she focuses on others, namely her teammates and her parents.

“I remember our team winning conference titles in 2000 and 2001 and making the trip to the NCAA Division III National Tournament,” says Crank, a native of Lincoln, Neb. “That was such a special time for us.

“It was also special for my parents, Tom and Jo Zorn,” she adds. “My dad taught my sister and me how to play golf. As kids, he set up putting contests and games for us and arranged the rules in ways that allowed us to win. He made it fun and did everything he could to encourage us.”

The putting contests paid dividends as Crank placed in the top 10 in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) all four years as a Beaver. She finished seventh as a freshman, second as a sophomore, sixth as a junior, and then topped all comers as a senior in earning medalist honors. The Beavers took home the team title for Coach Darlene Still in 2000, then repeated as IIAC champions under Coach Tom Bohnenkamp in 2001.

“BVU was such a good choice for me, academically and because it allowed me to get involved. The fact we worked at it and enjoyed success on the golf course makes it even that much more fun to remember and to celebrate.”

Dr. Deborah (Zorn) Crank, BVU Hall-of-Famer

Crank says she was able to scramble on the course, a testament to the short-game contests her dad arranged. She needed to as she often found herself playing from some unique spots on the course.

“I was always getting into trouble somewhere on the course,” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t hit that many greens, but I must have been able to get up and down just enough.”

Crank earned 11th place in the nation in 2000, which earned her All-American status. She finished 22nd the following year. 

A double-major in math and chemistry, Crank was also a three-time Scholar All-American and a member of the Iowa Conference All-Academic Team in 2000.

Following her graduation from BVU, Crank earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at Iowa State University. She spent six years working as a fulltime chemistry lecturer at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass., before her family relocated to the Twin Cities five years ago.

BVU Assistant Professor of Mathematics & Quantitative Business Timothy McDaniel helped Crank put her career path in motion.

“I was a freshman who was intent on majoring in chemistry,” Crank recalls. “I was taking Calculus II with McDaniel and he pulled me aside and explained to me that a math and chemistry double-major would make a lot of sense.”

McDaniel wrote an academic plan for Crank in the ensuing days. She embarked on the double-major and eventually earned her Ph.D., having met her future husband, Jeff Crank, in the chemistry Ph.D. program at Iowa State.

“BVU is the kind of close-knit University where something like that can happen to a freshman because students get to know their professors immediately,” she says. “McDaniel served as my math advisor while Dr. (Jon) Hutchins (Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus) advised me in chemistry. It’s a great asset to have an involved advisor working within your major. In my case, I had two!”

Even today, she laughs, Crank is much more comfortable in speaking about chemistry than about her own golf career. And while she isn’t currently teaching at the collegiate level, she hopes to return to college instruction at some point. For now, she’s spending a little time on the driving range with their daughters, Maddie and Isabelle, who are ages 10 and six, respectively.

What might they think of their mother, who parlayed her family time on the driving range to a spot in the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame?

“The girls might think it’s cool their mom and her team enjoyed some success in golf a long time ago at BVU,” she says. “This is a great honor for me. I know my parents are also thrilled. BVU was such a good choice for me, academically and because it allowed me to get involved. The fact we worked at it and enjoyed success on the golf course makes it even that much more fun to remember and to celebrate.”