Mary Coffman Crocker ’65 and John Crocker
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal arts education helped you in your life?
Dickinson’s liberal arts education gave me a desire to continue learning throughout my life, not just in my professional field. It helped me develop the skills to critically evaluate what I read and hear. It has prepared me to deal with changes in the workplace and in life.
What inspired your gift to Dickinson?
I am pleased that Dickinson now has study abroad programs. When I was a student, Dickinson did not have such a program, but my application and acceptance to Smith College’s Junior Year Abroad program in Paris was approved by the Dickinson administration. During that year, I made lifelong friends, and my travels to other countries helped me develop an understanding of and appreciation for different cultures and inspired a lifelong desire to continue travelling. Had it not been for these experiences, I might not have had a long career as an editor and author of French educational materials and I might not have accepted a job in Canada where I now live.
Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?
My husband and I want to give students the opportunity to enrich their lives by studying in a foreign country and the opportunity to become engaged citizens of the world.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?
My favorite memory is the relationship I had with some of the professors, particularly my French professor, Charley Perkins Rhoads, who helped me transition from my junior year in Paris back to Dickinson, and my Russian professor, William Frey, whose classes were always exciting. When we studied Eugene Onegin, he would bring in recordings of the opera based on that book.
Can you tell us about what you do outside of work—hobbies, interests, etc.?
I am retired now, but I am still doing some writing in French. I stay in shape by walking and taking Pilates classes. My husband and I enjoy reading, travelling and going to museum exhibits, the ballet and opera performances in Toronto and in other cities of the world.
When I retired, I started playing the piano again after having stopped at age 13.
Since June 2018, my husband and I have been sponsoring a puppy for the CNIB’s (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) guide dog program. It is rewarding to see how the puppy’s training is progressing. The future guide dogs are very smart, and we are encouraged by the fact that the CNIB will give the dog and related expenses to the neediest blind person.
What advice would you give to today’s students?
Take part in one of the study abroad programs that Dickinson offers. If possible, live like a local with a family. If you find some customs weird, remember they probably think the same about yours.
“Different” does not equal “wrong.”
Also read, read, read!