Lutheran North News

The Lifelong Crusader: Paul Crisler

Embark on the extraordinary journey of Paul Crisler, the visionary behind Lutheran North's transformation. From coaching triumphs in the '70s to pioneering technology and reshaping education, Paul's impact is a story of unwavering dedication. Join us as we explore the legacy of a lifelong crusader who left an enduring mark on 5401.

In 2023, Lutheran North bid farewell to one of its most influential and lifelong Crusaders, Mr. Paul Crisler—a figure woven into the fabric of the school as a coach, teacher, administrator, registrar, principal, visionary, and unwavering supporter for more than 40 years.

Paul’s journey started with Lutheran North in the fall of 1967, serving as a teacher and the head football coach. Since the football team was only three years old at the time, wins were hard to come by. However, he made sure “the cupboard was not bare” coaching the track team to victory time and time again from the 70s through the 90s. He founded the Lutheran North Relays in 1971, which is now the second longest running track meet in the St. Louis area.

Paul Crisler was more than just a coach. His lasting impact would also be in the classroom. A masterful math teacher, Paul had the unique ability to help students tackle complex concepts while infusing humor and grace in his classroom.

In the 1970s, he ushered Lutheran North into the Computer Age by connecting a teletype machine at North (referred to fondly as 'Huey') to a downtown mini-computer via a telephone line. Crisler landed Lutheran North as one of the first St. Louis area schools to integrate technology. With help from McDonald-Douglas, Saint Louis University, and some trusted counterparts like Carl Holschen S’64, Mark Marting S’72, and Barb Klingsick LHS’65, technology flourished at North. It’s no wonder so many Lutheran North graduates went on to pursue careers in engineering, and computer science. This was not a coincidence—Paul led the way which was a testament to his pioneering spirit.

By 1971, Paul founded a computer club for the student body, and in 1982 he established the Computer Center on campus. These initiatives triggered a curriculum rewrite including many new courses. In 1976, Paul added a touch of academic excitement with the inception of the annual Academic Fair. This turned into a continued tradition of inviting feeder elementary schools to compete in math, science, history, religion, and music competitions that continue to captivate minds to this day. This would not be the last time Paul spearheaded a curriculum teardown and rebuild.

In 1993, facing dwindling enrollment, Paul accepted the call of Principal. Determined to rekindle enrollment, he orchestrated a long-desired facelift paying teachers to repaint classrooms and hallways, replace lights throughout, and decorate the cafeteria with a new logo mural. Later that year, North had the honor of accepting recognition as one of the nation’s exemplary Lutheran High Schools. Not wanting to rest on the success of the past, Paul introduced a new schedule that would revolutionize the learning experience. In the block schedule, classes met every other day for an extended length of time. Blocks 1-4 met on “A” days and blocks 5-8 met on “B” days. This new structure allowed students to take more classes, thus bringing an end to the Zero hour classes which previously met before school. Additionally, students now had ample time to venture off campus. Bowling and golf excursions were implemented into P.E. classes, and home economics classes ventured to local grocery stores. The Academic Lab time gave students time during the school day to get extra help, make up work, or convene with fellow students to complete a group project. Frequent assemblies became the norm to provide added experiences and counteract “spring fever.” The new system encouraged student-to-student and faculty-to-student collaboration, developed student self-reliance and created the opportunity for more rigorous college coursework. Over time, student test scores increased as did student participation in class.

Paul’s vision of Lutheran North Sundays became a community tradition starting in 1993 with the help of Steve Tirmenstein and the Reverend Arthur Repp LHS’52. Churches connected with local feeder schools enjoyed the band’s melodic pieces in worship service where Paul or Kirk Mueller would bring greetings to the congregation and conduct an informational meeting about North during adult Bible classes.

Paul always had big dreams for Lutheran North. In the midst of the 80s, he examined the economies of scale and facility optimization to craft plans of bringing a unified Lutheran middle school to North. Fast forward to 2001, he set in motion a massive campus expansion from roughly 25 acres to a whopping 47 acres. “Crisler Creek” — a water course created by the construction of I-70 three decades earlier that needed drainage—posed a short-term hiccup, but did not stop the development of two soccer fields, baseball and softball fields including batting cages, discus/javelin/shot put areas, and the eight-lane track surrounding the football field we know and love today. This expansion cemented North’s location and silenced the nearly two-decade-old conversation of moving Lutheran North out of North County.

Even retirement couldn’t diminish Paul’s dedication to the school or his time supporting the beloved Crusaders. He attended almost every football game and countless basketball games and many other school events. He assisted in the development of the Hall of Honor and encouraged and inspired the principals who took the seat after him. Paul remained a steadfast advocate, always having Lutheran North’s back.

For 56 years, he was Lutheran North’s biggest cheerleader, visionary, pioneer, and friend. Paul Crisler left an indelible mark, shaping North in ways beyond words. His legacy will live on and his presence at 5401 will be greatly missed.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:21

Remembering Paul Crisler

I had the privilege of working with Paul for over 25 years. I was Paul's assistant in freshman football where he loved working with young students and teaching them the fundamentals of the game. I also served as Lutheran North's Director of Counseling and found that Paul was passionate about Christian education. He was always looking for ways to improve the school, whether it was by introducing new programs, organizing events, or supporting extracurricular activities. Paul was not only a great colleague, but also a wonderful person. He had a warm and friendly personality, a generous and compassionate heart, and a witty and playful sense of humor. We will certainly miss him.  - Mike Prange

Paul was very passionate about Lutheran education, especially Lutheran North. He was a visionary when it came to education. Personally it was Paul who saw the leadership potential that I had, because of him I stepped out of my comfort zone of teaching and became part of the leadership team. He will be missed but never forgotten.  - Elaine Hunt

Many people talk about the Gospel’s message of service to others. Paul not only talked the talk; he walked the walk. He LIVED his faith by always being there and advocating for all his students.  - Mark Marting

Ed Reitz, a principal at Lutheran North in the late 1970s and 1980s, used to tell us at every faculty meeting: “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to be there.” It was intended to remind us that our presence at school activities was important to our success as teachers. Paul Crisler modeled this behavior throughout his career. As a theology teacher, math teacher, assistant principal, computer teacher, math department chair, principal, track coach, football coach, and mentor to young teachers, he was always present at everything that happened at Lutheran North. He supported LHSN students and faculty, and everyone that he touched will remember him for the great influence that he projected on all of us.  - Carl Holschen