David Cross sits at his desk covered with papers and books. His office is hidden around a tight corner, so it it’s easy to miss. He bears the title of professor of psychology and co-director of the TCU Institute of Child Development. He was quick to engage in relaxed conversation, about his life, his music and what it means to him. In the span of 20 minutes, he shared one common interest that surpasses age, race or creed: music.
Cross said he grew in Fresno, California, in a small town located in the Central Valley called Sanger. He said Fort Worth is a lot like Sanger, minus the mountains. Time spent in those mountainshelped Cross discover his future path. He grew up working as a counselor in boys camps. In all that time as a wilderness leader, Cross discovered that he wanted to work with children, but he did not know in what way. Trial and error brought him to several occupations, such as assistant football coach and counselor, but those jobs did not fit.
He said growing up in the foster care system contributed to why he settled on child development and familial studies. It is his way of giving back, he said.
After learning about research, he realized that studying and researching with families was a perfect fit, so he went to the University of Michigan to pursue his Ph.D.
In 1984, he came away with two master’s degrees in psychology and statistics and in 1985, a Ph.D. in education and psychology. That same year, he came to TCU, and has been here ever since.
Cross left the cold weather of Michigan and came to TCU, “because it was my dream job,” he said. He said the job “was as if it was written just for me.” And for more than 20 years, Cross has been serving in the TCU community. In his career at TCU, he has received the Psi Chi Distinguished Professor in Psychology three times, an award that recognizes superior achievements of those in the field of psychology.
But, as a researcher, Cross has to work in silence. When concentrating on his work, music rarely makes an appearance. In long drives alone and “light work,” the voices of Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac or Billy Joe Shaver squeeze their way in, he said.
Cross said he is partial to rock ‘n’ roll, country and folksy sounds. Yet he also has an affinity for the Grateful Dead, Norah Jones and Yo-Yo Ma.
“I like almost everything,” he said. “It depends on my mood. I have more CDs than I’d like to count.”
His CD collection includes folk Celtic, ethnic and African music, as well. On the country side of his musical tastes, he likes Guy Clark.
“I saw [Clark] in person one time, and he blew me away,” Cross said.
Lately, Cross finds himself revisiting “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac.
“I don’t really like the people in [Fleetwood Mac], but the music always seems to be just right for me,” he said.
Cross said when he was younger he enjoyed R&B music like Diana Ross and The Temptations. When it came to genres of music, “we didn’t make the distinction… you just listened to whoever was good,” he said.
He enjoys soulful folksy artists like Johnny Cash and Susan Tedeschi, but Bob Dylan is his hero. Cross said he sees Dylan as a pioneer who keeps reinventing himself. He said he finds it difficult to select one Dylan song as his favorite, naming lists of songs as opposed to one. “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Knock on Heaven’s Door” are among his top 10 favorites.
He even said sometimes he forgets to listen to music. But overall, music holds a special place in his life.
“It’s everything, in a way…it’s just as much as being human as anything.”