John E. Cribbet

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John Edward Cribbet
3rd Chancellor of the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
In office
Preceded by William P. Gerberding
Succeeded by Thomas Eugene Everhart
(acting, 1979)
Personal details
Born (1918-02-21)February 21, 1918
Findlay, Illinois
Died May 23, 2009(2009-05-23) (aged 91)
Alma mater Illinois Wesleyan University
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Profession University administrator, professor

John Edward Cribbet (February 21, 1918 – May 23, 2009) was a well-known legal scholar, dean of the University of Illinois College of Law, and chancellor of the University of Illinois.[1][2]


Cribbet was born in Findlay, Illinois just outside Decatur.[1] His mother raised him after his father died from the Spanish flu.[1] Dr. Cribbet received his undergraduate degree from Illinois Wesleyan University.[1] There, he met his wife Betty Smith.[1] After graduation, Dr. Cribbet joined the Army for World War II. He served as an aide-de-camp for Lt. Gen. Troy H. Middleton on the European front.[1] His service produced a number of medals and stories, which he would later relate in his popular law lectures.[1]

Cribbet then decided to attend the University of Illinois College of Law where he received his J.D. degree in 1947.[1][3] He spent a few months in law practice in Bloomington, Illinois at the law firm of Costigan, Wollrab, and Yoder before he was invited back to the University of Illinois to teach law.[1][3] As a professor, he held visiting positions at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Texas School of Law.[3] In 1967 he was appointed as dean of the law school, a position he held until 1979 when he was asked to serve as chancellor of the campus.[1][4]

Cribbet was survived by his wife Betty; his two daughters, Pamela Steward and Carol Cribbet-Bell; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.[1]


Cribbet was named acting chancellor on July 1, 1979 after William P. Gerberding left the position for the presidency of the University of Washington.[4] The University of Illinois Board of Trustees formally named Cribbet as chancellor in December of that year.[4] At the time of Cribbet's appointment University President Stanley O. Ikenberry had positive words for the new Chancellor. He stated Chancellor Cribbet "[would] bring to the position of chancellor extensive experience as an academic leader, what [he had] found to be an extraordinary soundness of judgment, and an absolutely superb reputation in his profession."[4] For his part, the new chancellor told the press that he would strive to "strengthen the voice" of students and faculty in campus governance.[4]

Termination of Gary Moeller[edit]

While still in his capacity as acting chancellor, Cribbet was involved in the decision to terminate Illinois Football head coach Gary Moeller after the coach posted a disappointing 6-24-3 record in three seasons.[5] The Illinois athletic director, Neale Stoner, made the recommendation to terminate Moeller, a recommendation which was later approved by the University's Board of Trustees in an 8-1 vote.[5] Prior to the vote, Moeller met with Chancellor Cribbet and President Ikenberry and pleaded for his job. A bitter Moeller called the decision "unfair to everyone in the program."[5] Moeller also chided the decision for not coinciding with the University's educational mission.[5] Chancellor Cribbet and Stoner would later oversee the hiring of Mike White after a search that included future Illinois football coach John Mackovic as a candidate.[6]

David Wilson Eligibility Case[edit]

During his chancellorship, Cribbet reluctantly oversaw another athletics dispute that would threaten Illinois' membership in the Big Ten Conference.[7] The dispute involved the eligibility of quarterback David Wilson.[7] The Big Ten had charged Illinois with misrepresentation, deception, lack of cooperation, and failing to comply with conference rules.[7] It sanctioned the Illinois athletics program with a ban in postseason competition in all sports and the loss of conference revenues.[7] Illinois football coach Mike White and Athletic Director Neale Stoner reportedly threatened to resign if the University did not defend itself against the charges.[7] The University vigorously responded with a 34-page rebuttal denying any wrongdoing.[7] Chancellor Cribbet attributed some of the problems to the University's large bureaucracy; operational staff made innocent, unintentional errors in petitions and materials that were not known to University officials.[7] He would lament: "I had high hopes of being able to make some contribution to the solution to the many troubling problems [in intercollegiate athletics] surfacing in the mass media. Now I fear I shall be known, in athletic circles, only as the chancellor who was involved in the Wilson case, a fact which truly saddens me."[7]

Selected works[edit]

  • Property: Cases and Materials (with Corwin W. Johnson, Roger W. Findley, Ernest E. Smith, and John S. Dzienkowski) a seminal textbook now in its ninth edition.[1]
  • Principles of the Law of Property (with Corwin W. Johnson) a popular textbook that spawned three editions.
  • Concepts in Transition: The Search for a New Definition of Property, 1986 University of Illinois Law Review 1.
  • Changing Concepts in the Law of Land Use, 50 Iowa Law Review 245 (1964).
  • Condominium: Home Ownership for Megalopolis?, 61 Michigan Law Review 1207 (1963).
  • Conveyancing Reform, 35 N.Y.U. Law Review 1291 (1960).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mitchum, Robert (May 25, 2009). "John E. Cribbet, 1918-2009: Former U. of I. chancellor, law dean". The Chicago Tribune. Chicago. 
  2. ^ Beyer, Gerry W. (May 28, 2009). "Dean John E. Cribbet dies". Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog. Retrieved Dec 24, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "Cribbet Named Dean of Law, To Succeed Sullivan in Fall". The Daily Illini. Feb 10, 1967. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Cribbet, U. of I. law dean, new chancellor at Urbana". The Chicago Tribune. Dec 13, 1979. pp. B18. 
  5. ^ a b c d Israel, David (Nov 21, 1979). "'We were making progress,' says bitter coach". The Chicago Tribune. pp. D1. 
  6. ^ Damer, Roy (Dec 14, 1979). "White already on job as new Illinois coach". The Chicago Tribune. pp. E1. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Kay, Linda (May 6, 1981). "Illinois disputes Big 10's findings". The Chicago Tribune. pp. C1. 

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