Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences
Young Alumnus of the Year Award
Robert E. Croston, Jr., Arts ’05 (Posthumously)
For most of college, Rob thought he wanted a career as a political science professor. But as he progressed through Marquette University, he says, “I realized I didn’t want to make sense of public life, I wanted to be active in public life.”
Before he passed away March 5 at age 34 due to complications from Marfan syndrome, Rob was in his fourth year as principal of Jenner Academy of the Arts, a public elementary school in Chicago that serves primarily black, low-income students. With Rob at the helm, Jenner’s students made significant gains in attendance, performance and social-emotional development. Rob’s inspired leadership, dedicated teaching and community service earned him multiple awards. Thanks in part to Rob’s advocacy, the still under-enrolled Jenner is set to merge in fall 2018 with Ogden International, a nearby high-achieving but increasingly overcrowded school that serves mostly upper-income families. It’s an unusual move for the Chicago Public Schools, also supported by Ogden’s principal.
Rob’s vision was to make Jenner into what he called a “N.E.S.T.” The acronym reminds the Jenner community to be neighborly, stay engaged, be scholarly and use teamwork. “A nest is where birds give birth to, nurture, sustain and teach their young to survive and fly,” he said in interviews. “Education can be a great shelter for dreams, goals and aspirations.”
Previously a school director for Teach for America and a teacher/academy director for EdisonLearning, Rob earned three master’s degrees — in education from Harvard University; in social science from the University of Chicago; and in teaching from Dominican University.
His Jesuit education at Marquette, he said — particularly the tenet of cura personalis or “care for the whole person” — consistently inspired his leadership approach. He lived the Jesuit philosophy of being a person for others through service to community, not only in his role as a school leader but also at Crusaders Church, where along with his wife, Sheena, he was a pastor and children’s ministry leader.