More Than 150,000 Applications Later, Croop Retires

L-R: Chris Covert, Rit Fuller, Shirley Croop, Lora Schilder, Doug Thompson, Monica Inzer
L-R: Chris Covert, Rit Fuller, Shirley Croop, Lora Schilder, Doug Thompson, Monica Inzer
A walk on the moon, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the end of the Cold War, the dot com boom and bust, 9/11 and the War on Terror are but a few of the major events of the last half century. From a technological perspective, sophisticated color copiers have replaced duplicating machines. Typewriters have been made obsolete by the personal computer. The ascendancy of the fax machine has been trumped by e-mail, and thumb drives now store more data than was once saved in roomfuls of notebooks. Indeed much has transpired in the last 50 years.

At the same time, from her vantage point in the Admission Office, Operations Manager Shirley Croop witnessed the founding of Kirkland College and its merger with Hamilton, the significant growth in applications for admission and a construction boom that included Beinecke Student Activities Village, Fillius Events Barn, the Little Pub, the Schambach Center and the Bristol Center, among others.

A few months shy of her 50th anniversary at the College, this longest-serving staff member decided to retire. Perhaps the example set by her first boss, Sydney Bennett, who worked at Hamilton for more than three decades, influenced her decision to stay at the College for her entire career. If you ask Croop, she will tell you it is the people: “I have always worked with a great bunch of people. They are my family away from my family.”

On Thursday, Aug. 6, many members of her admission family gathered for a dinner in her honor. Among the attendees were all the former living admission deans for whom Croop had worked: Chris Covert, Douglas Thompson, Rit Fuller and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Monica Inzer.

“It would be an understatement to say that her work has been invaluable to this College and that she will be sorely missed,” said Inzer. “It is so meaningful that she has given her life to the College. She has kept current. She cares. The fact that all the formers deans would make an effort to come back says a lot.”

“When I started at Hamilton, it was a much smaller school,” said Croop. “It was a men’s college. There is no comparison with today’s Hamilton. Sydney Bennett hired me and Bob McEwen was president. I thought that I would stay at Hamilton five to 10 years, but I never wanted to stop working, and it took me a long time to decide to retire.”

Responding to an ad to work at a “local college,” Croop came to Hamilton for her hour-long interview with Bennett. Having been on the campus only once before, “I didn’t think I would be interested in the job, but when I met Sydney Bennett, he was just great. I knew I wanted the job. At the end of the interview, he asked me when I could start.”

Her job evolved over the years. “In the beginning I hand-typed all correspondence,” said Croop. “Nothing was automated. The biggest change for me has been the introduction of computers. I began this job hand-entering all our numbers and then later they were keypunched and then everything was put online. That was quite a change for us all.” Director of Admission Lora Schilder confirms that Croop, “has always stayed current and rolled with the punches.”

“I really like computer work and the ITS group are angels,” said Croop. “They have taught me so much. I like that end of it. I liked having more responsibility for the data. It has been nice to know how to retrieve information – I’ve enjoyed that.”

Former Director of Financial Aid Matt Malatesta confirmed her words with a story. “I started working at Hamilton about 40 years after she started, and one of my main duties was admission information systems. In other words, I was the computer geek looking to bring things online and instantaneous. You'd think that would lead toward an adversarial relationship; a long-time employee who started well before the Internet versus the computer guy modernizing everything. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shirley was wonderfully supportive of everything we were doing, and she was one of my favorite colleagues.”

As her responsibilities increased, she became the point person who ensured that applications were processed and decisions got out on time without mistakes. To her relief, there were none during her tenure.

She was emphatic that it was a team effort with everyone helping out. Co-worker Sue Iffert affirmed that, “Shirley always thought of us as family. There is no one who could ever replace Shirley. ... She truly enjoyed coming to work each and every day. … She always took everything in stride, and would say ‘it’ll get done.’ And she was right, the work did get done.”

Although understated in the office, Croop has another flashier side. Former Dean of Admission Rit Fuller and several other associates and students reminisced about Croop’s flashy cars. “One of my first memories of Shirley was of the quiet, capable staff person who 'ran the office' according to the people I met when I started at Hamilton,” said Fuller. “Then I remember walking to my car and being passed by this woman in a sharp-looking, 'hot' new vehicle. It was Shirley. In the 15 years I have known her, she has probably had seven or eight new vehicles, all sporty, with extra chrome and big engines. Go figure..."

Alumnus Lyle Trued ’03 who worked in the admission office one summer even named his car after Croop. “I realized that my car [an old Mercedes station wagon], which I had for almost a year at that point, was still without a name. Somehow, the fact that Shirley had just gotten her new hot-rod Dodge came into a conversation with another student worker -- and from there, a light bulb just went on with respect to the car's new name. Both Shirleys were practical, reliable, likable, wonderful – and an integral part of my Hamilton experience. We were all in love with her. She is great.”

Having handled correspondence with more than 150,000 students over almost 50 years, Croop won’t miss all the application processing. It will be the campus community that she has embraced over the decades that she will miss most.
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