Longtime Faculty Member Becomes Archivist Emerita, Continues Legacy of Preserving Institution's History
Lucretia Crawford has spent nearly a half a century on the Lakeland University campus, and despite retiring this May as a faculty member, her service won’t be ending any time soon.
Crawford, a 1980 Lakeland graduate with a double major in English and German, was named Archivist Emerita at her retirement celebration. This summer and beyond, she will continue her passion of caring for Mission House and Lakeland artifacts gathered from throughout the institution’s 161-year history.
“When I retired, I said, I really do want to continue to play in the archives … can I keep the key to the house (where the archives are stored)?” Crawford said with a smile. “Look what turned out? I had no idea that was happening. That’s just awesome. I love it.”
It’s a fitting way for her to continue serving an institution that’s become a central part of her life.
The former Lucretia Hediger, who was born in Minnesota and grew up in Neillsville, Wis., heard about Lakeland while working at a summer camp from a camp staff member and recent Lakeland graduate, Bill Klossner ’74. She enrolled at Lakeland in the fall of 1976 after exchanging a number of hand-written letters as part of the recruitment process with then-English professor Tom Lisk, who became her first academic advisor. He even arranged to have two of her poems included in the Lakeland student publication “The Artful Dodger” when she agreed to attend.
Lucretia was followed to Lakeland by her sister, Clara Hediger ’89. In 1983, she married James Crawford, Lakeland’s legendary theatre director, behind the Ley Chapel in a ceremony performed by Lakeland Chaplain the Rev. David Lauer. Their son, Ramsay, graduated from Lakeland in 2008.
“It was like my whole family was here,” Lucretia said. “There is something here that has worked for me.”
A lover of literature who grew up in a house filled with books, Crawford taught herself to print by looking at newspapers and learned to read before she started school. She always envisioned a career in the humanities, but never as a college professor.
After earning a master’s degree in English at the University of Notre Dame, she returned to Lakeland in 1983 as a faculty member. Throughout her tenure, her variety of literature, writing and Core classes have been favorites for Lakeland students. She received the 2002 Underkofler Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award and the 2011 Outstanding Faculty Award by the LU Alumni Association.
“As colleagues of Lucretia, we have come to know her as an incredibly student-centric, compassionate, creative and principled educator,” said longtime colleague Karl Kuhn, dean of Lakeland’s School of Humanities & Fine Arts. “We have also come to know her as a warm, caring and compassionate colleague who loves Lakeland, its mission and its history deeply.”
Crawford, who received a doctorate in English from UW-Milwaukee in 2004, has spent countless hours with Ann Penke, LU’s director of library services and fellow Lakeland history lover, unearthing, gathering, sorting and archiving countless items.
Her introduction to Lakeland’s history came early in her freshman year. She was volunteering for a community service project sealing envelopes in WAK when Catherine Krueger, then Lakeland’s archivist and wife of the late Arthur Krueger, a Lakeland president and the namesake for A.M. Krueger Hall, came in looking for students to help her carry some boxes.
“The envelope sealing was horrible, so I volunteered immediately,” Crawford said.
The boxes were filled with items from Lakeland’s history, and Krueger encouraged the students to explore them as she talked about them.
“She started explaining the history and that was it, I was hooked,” Crawford said. “In that very first week I got introduced to Lakeland’s history. It was an absolutely perfect connection for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve carried these boxes since then.”
Her love for Lakeland and its history solidified when she learned of a connection to her hometown. The former Winnebago Indian School in Neillsville was founded by father/son Mission House graduates Jacob and Ben Stucki. Mission House supported the school financially and with staff and student interns.
“I had no understanding of the Mission House connection when I arrived at Lakeland,” said Crawford, whose doctoral dissertation focuses on Winnebago/Ho-Chunk women’s oral narratives, including a woman whose children attended the Neillsville school.
“Catherine Krueger quickly explained the connection to me. We discovered that we knew a number of the same people from the past, and for a brand-new freshman, it was like finding a bit of home on campus.”
In reminiscing about her time at Lakeland, the memories coming flowing back, like regretting not taking an office in the old Bossard Hall (“I could have said I was the last of the Bossard generation.”) to the myriad of technological changes, like the first photocopier on campus, the advent of computers and teaching virtually.
In the end, her greatest memories and what she’ll miss the most revolve around the students.
“When I think about my classroom it’s like being in my living room,” Crawford said. “How would I behave if they were in my living room? It’s been quite a connection. Some I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life.”