Drs. Robert Heichberger and Estelle Crino
What began as a worthy initiative by an individual has grown into a far-reaching mission to engage scores of graduates to support their alma mater. The new Committee of Friends has been launched as a unique fundraising opportunity to encourage College of Education (COE) alumni to each donate $200 to create new, $2,000 scholarships to attract the best and brightest students to SUNY Fredonia and, ultimately, careers in education.
A year ago Dr. Robert Heichberger, an innovative leader, beloved professor emeritus, executive assistant to the university president for 10 years, and a longtime Fredonia College Council member, launched the Heichberger Family and Scholars of Leadership Endowment Fund to strengthen school leadership training. His generous act quickly appealed to colleagues, who in turn made their own donations and became Heichberger Fund partners. But that was just the beginning.
Dr. Estelle Crino, a retired principal in Gowanda, N.Y., and one of seven students enrolled in the original Educational Administration/Supervision program launched by Heichberger in the mid 1970s, was one of those partners. Inspired by the fund and the program, she established her own endowment to address a need dear to her heart.
“I had given money toward the Heichberger endowment, since I really love the Educational Administration program, but I also wanted to do something different,” she explained. She created the Dr. Estelle M. Crino Educational Leadership Scholarship for Promising Women Leaders, to encourage more women to pursue leadership positions in education.
“I would hope more women would be interested in going into school administration. When I was a principal, I noticed so many women who would make good leaders, but who were afraid to leave the security as a teacher and having tenure. They were always afraid to take that next step,” she added.
Being a little bit of a “risk-taker,” she noted, is almost a prerequisite to becoming an administrator. “Sometimes they need a little push.”
Crino speaks from experience, having served 14 years as an elementary principal in Gowanda, six years as a teacher in Silver Creek and several years as an adjunct professor in the College of Education. She also taught in Buffalo and Rockland County and was a nun for 19 years before becoming a teacher.
In 1976, while teaching in Silver Creek, Crino enrolled in the Educational Administration/Supervision program to become a principal. “I always wanted to go further, wanted to have a little more say in education and have more parental involvement.”
A New Jersey native, she earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University, as well as two master’s degrees and a doctorate in curriculum planning and development. She later taught graduate courses at SUNY Fredonia. She retired in 1993 and now operates a bed and breakfast near Silver Creek.
She believes the program is important to Chautauqua County, in addition to the COE.
“There are programs in administration at larger universities, but I think that being in a smaller university [like Fredonia], there is more opportunity here for people to interact,” she said. “It’s very valuable, even for people who want to go back for a refresher course. Learning is a lifelong process.”
Donations to the Committee of Friends, along with specific endowments, help SUNY Fredonia strengthen educational programs. To learn more, contact Heather McKeever, associate director of Development, at (716) 673-3321 or email@example.com.