Local professor turns classroom setting into a welcoming, warm environment



Claire O’Halloran

Walking into the Saint Augustine Center Room 461 doesn’t feel like walking into an office at all. Rather, it feels more like entering the cozy living room of an old friend. The walls are a deep mauve and the typical harsh office lighting is replaced with a mellow table lamp that dimly brightens the tastefully decorated room. 

Instead of a plastic chair, a massive brown leather love seat angles toward the desk that Crystal Lucky, Ph.D., an English professor specializing in African American Literature, sits behind. The leather chair invites students, faculty and anyone that might pass by, to relax into meaningful discussion—an invitation that mirrors her participation-centered teaching style.  

“I’m so insistent on class participation and building that into the experience,” Lucky said.  “I thrive on that interaction with my students.”

Lucky, who began teaching at Villanova in 1996, is a native to the Philadelphia area and she attended The Baldwin School before committing to the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Communication. 

In addition to teaching multiple classes, Lucky spent 10 years as director of the Africana Studies program, before passing it on to her friend and colleague, Chiji Akoma, in the spring of 2016. 

 The Africana Studies program works to educate students on why Africa matters, and how its culture and communities have affected the world’s history and the world now. 

“Students with the minor come out with a better sense of the social, economic and cultural mix of the US,” Akoma said.

In her time at the University, Lucky has become a favorite professor of many students, according to Akoma. 

“Wonderful, focused, caring,” Akoma said, describing Lucky in three words.  

Lucky’s office contains two large bookcases that make up most of one wall. Titles like “Tasting Freedom,” “Disciples of Liberty” and “Skin Deep” hint at Lucky’s passion for and extensive knowledge of African American Literature.  From her office, a first—time visitor wouldn’t have a clue about the “other-life” Lucky lives outside of the classroom.

“Literally, I live two lives,” Lucky said.  “I live my Villanova life. As a professor, and then I live my pastor life.”

With the large amount of time dedicated to her teaching, Lucky’s life as a pastor is no small obligation. 

Lucky became a member of Church of the Living God International Incorporated when she moved to Germany with her husband for his military work and began attending a church in the incorporation. 

“I’ve always been in church all my life,” Lucky said. “I’ve always been drawn to spiritual things, and have been active in my church. I’m a singer, so I sang in church and played the piano in church. Church has always been a part of my life and the life of my family.”

This love for faith and church led Lucky to become ordained as a pastor in 1995 and to later found Sword of the Spirit Church in Philadelphia, a part of Church of the Living God International Incorporated, with her husband in 1993. 

Her experience with preaching and leading a congregation is emulated in the classroom, where she speaks with captivating passion about her subjects and walks around the front of the classroom like it is a stage. 

“Dr. Lucky is extremely engaging in her teaching style,” Megan Galioto ’18, a student in Lucky’s African American Literature class, said.  “She is enthusiastic, which draws the rest of the class in and makes us eager to hear what she has to say.  It doesn’t feel like a classroom, and instead feels like a discussion with a good friend.”

Lucky is a hard worker by nature—she graduated in just three years with her double major at Penn. But perhaps the best proof of this work ethic is her dedication to her own research and writing outside of her double life of pastor and teacher. 

On Oct. 27, Lucky gave a book talk in the Falvey Memorial Library Speaker’s Corner on the autobiography of Reverend Charlotte Riley, a text Lucky edited, wrote notes and introductions for and guided into publication. 

Lucky came across a private manuscript of Charlotte Riley’s autobiography, “A Mysterious Life and Calling,” at Wilberforce University in Ohio when she was there looking for old church records. 

“I saw this particular book that was bound in cardboard which caught my attention,” Lucky said.  “So I started looking for publication identification, like where was it published, or if it registered with the Library of Congress and that kind of stuff. When I realized it wasn’t that’s when I was kind of like ‘oh my god what is this.’”

Lucky stumbled upon a manuscript that was a perfect combination of her passions: 19th century African American literature and preachers. Having previously written her dissertation for Penn on four prominent African American women born in the North, to find this manuscript by a female reverend born into slavery in the south was “a gift” for Lucky. 

“For me to find this woman’s story was so spectacular, because I could continue the work I had begun, but also I could push it forward and push it further,” Lucky said. 

Lucky expresses the same unwavering enthusiasm for everything in her life, whether it be for teaching, her research, her church or her newfound hobby of weaving. 

“I. Love. Weaving,” Lucky said with emphasis. “I think I have some talent for it and I absolutely love it.”

She found this passion while visiting Nantucket with her husband—the same man she credits immensely for building her an intricate shoe shelf to house the 200 plus pairs of shoes she has in her collection (another hidden hobby of hers). 

Her firm passion, unique hobbies, and eagerness to share knowledge have made Lucky a familiar friendly face in the English department and around campus at Villanova. 

“I hope she knows that I admire her work,” Akoma said.  “Just to put it on record—yes, I do admire the work Dr. Lucky does, she’s a wonderful friend and a wonderful colleague. She makes my being a member of the English department super extra special. My colleges are wonderful, Crystal is just that cherry on top.”Just make sure to compliment her on her scarf—odds are she wove it herself.