In 2009, Dr. Estelle Crino visited the Fredonia campus to attend an event honoring her mentor, Dr. Robert Heichberger. As an innovative leader, a beloved professor emeritus, executive assistant to the university president for 10 years and a longtime Fredonia College Council member, Dr. Heichberger had launched the Heichberger Family and Scholars of Leadership Endowment Fund to strengthen school leadership training.
His generous act quickly appealed to campus colleagues, community members and former students such as Estelle, all of whom made donations themselves and became Heichberger fund partners. But that was just the beginning.
Estelle, a retired principal in Gowanda, N.Y., and one of seven students enrolled in the original educational administration/supervision program launched by Dr. Heichberger in the mid-1970s, was so inspired by the initiative, she established her own endowment to address a need dear to her heart.
A Cause Close 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 says. 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 says.
Estelle speaks from experience, having served 14 years as an elementary principal in Gowanda, six more as a teacher in Silver Creek and several more as an adjunct professor in the College of Education. This New Jersey native, who proceeded to earn a doctorate in curriculum planning and development, 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, she enrolled in the educational administration/supervision program to become a principal. "I always wanted to go farther, wanted to have a little more say in education and have more parental involvement."
A Legacy in Education
When asked what inspired her to become a member of the Dallas K. Beal Legacy Society, Estelle says: "As most who have started a scholarship will say, I am paying back. I feel strongly that, by starting a scholarship fund and including it in my estate plans, I am paying it forward. As Fredonia helped me with my career, I feel it is my duty to do all that I can to assist others who now face the same challenges I did when I was a nontraditional student working toward my goal of becoming a school administrator.
"I want education to be my legacy as it has been my life for 45 years," says Estelle, who retired in 1993 and now operates a bed and breakfast near Silver Creek. "The Fredonia College Foundation has made it possible for me to create that legacy through my endowment fund. As I met my first scholarship recipient this past spring, it validated to me that leaving the Fredonia College Foundation in my estate plans gives me peace of mind knowing my legacy will live on in a way that honors my accomplishments while inspiring others to reach for their dreams."
Being a little bit of a "risk-taker," she says, is almost a prerequisite to becoming an administrator. "Sometimes they need a little push," she says. "I'm hoping that the larger my scholarship grows, the bigger the push I'm able to give someone else to take the next step in their career, and that is the legacy I want to be remembered by."
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