Crystal is proof positive of the old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — the tree in this case being the sturdy, twinned trunks of parents who placed a high value on education. Not surprising, considering Crystal’s father was a professor of political science at various universities in Miami including Florida International University, Miami Dade Community College and the University of Miami, and her mother was a Fulbright Scholar with a PhD in international relations focused on the Caribbean and Latin America. Crystal didn’t do so badly herself. A medical degree — completed in German, no less, from the University of Heidelberg — and, just for good measure, a PhD in oncology research, completing her rotations at Harvard Medical School.
Born in Pittsburgh, she spent her formative years in Miami, where the family lived on the University of Miami campus while Crystal’s mother pursued her doctorate. Crystal and her three younger siblings turned the nearby campus of FIU into a cloistered playground. The family home was an informal drop-in center, the kind of welcoming and generous place where friends and foreign students might stop by for a visit and end up staying for freewheeling conversations over dinner.
Her first high school job could be seen as a bit of journalistic OZY foreshadowing. The Miami Herald hired her as a section editor of the paper’s weekend supplement titled “Neighbors.” Her toughest assignment: writing about mystic-minded Miami residents who were into cabalism.
The campus home environment may account for some of Crystal’s international flair. She met her future husband, a Swiss-German engineering exchange student, at a coffee house while she was an undergrad at Clark University in Worchester, Massachusetts. Something sparked — and it kept sparking after graduation, all the way to medical school in Heidelberg.
Random Euro fact: Crystal’s husband was a member of a touring German drumming band named Bambera with Crystal as the group’s manager. That’s right — all drums, all the time, and steady bookings thanks to Crystal. Since then, her passport has been stamped in more than 25 countries.
The pivot back to education occurred about a decade ago, when Crystal was part of an educational coalition that worked with Harvard Graduate students in medicine, business and engineering to find sustainable solutions to health services, clean water and other quality of life issues in distressed regions of Brazil, South Africa and elsewhere. And now, as OZY’s educational ambassador, she continues to collaborate with schools and universities to organize roundtables and other events — all in an effort to bring the real world into the classroom.