Growing up in Papua New Guinea as the daughter of missionaries, Mary Croft ’79 learned a thing or two about living a simple life.
“Our living conditions were fairly primitive or perhaps rustic,” she says, fondly recalling her first home, which had a thatched roof and woven bamboo floors. “I think our parents did all they could to make us feel as though we weren’t missing anything by growing up in a developing country.”
Memories of Mary’s early living conditions flooded her mind when she toured Augsburg’s 60-year-old science building just a few months ago.
“The fact Augsburg can earn these amazing grants and work in this building is pretty mind boggling,” she says when thinking about the building that looks nearly identical to what it did in the ’60s when she first studied at Augsburg.
Now, Mary and her husband, David, want to ensure that Augsburg students don’t feel they’re missing anything either.
The Crofts have pledged a $25,000 gift for the AWE-inspired (Augsburg Women Engaged) student study lounge in the future Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR).
Because of this generous commitment, the AWE CSBR fundraising initiative has surpassed its initial $100,000 goal. In the meantime, the initiative continues to gain momentum as more alumnae and friends learn about the AWE fundraising initiative and want to join the effort.
Mentored to give more
The desire for the Crofts to give to this project is multifaceted.
David, a retired Andersen Windows manager who humbly says he “worked in marketing and finance,” looks forward to seeing the cross-disciplinary building help grow the business industry. In fact, it was in business that David was inspired to be philanthropic.
David says former Andersen Windows founder and president, the late Fred Andersen, was a very philanthropic person who always gave from the heart. David is now engaged in the philanthropic community, giving to causes like Augsburg’s CSBR and, separately, serving on the board of the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation.
Mary’s inspiration to give stems from her 95-year-old father who, with his meager means, gave generously to causes close to his heart.
Since health sciences and women’s issues are causes close to Mary’s heart, giving to the AWE-inspired space in the CSBR seemed like a natural fit.
The 68-year-old said she got “caught up in the women’s movement.”
“I’ve always been an independent person,” says Mary. “I was one of the few Andersen management’s wives who worked in their chosen field. While I enjoyed attending Andersen functions, I also wanted to have a career independent of my husband’s.”
Wellness as a pathway
Mary’s passion for public health led her to a career in healthcare. She primarily worked as a nurse at the prison in Stillwater, Minn., encouraging prisoners to remain healthy, as opposed to treating them once they got sick.
Mary’s interest in health and wellness attracted her back to Augsburg in the late ’70s, where she had initially studied education for two years before the College began offering health science degrees.
Mary enrolled as a nontraditional student in the bachelor of science in nursing program while also working full time and raising her and David’s young son, Matthew. Mary proudly became an Augsburg alumna in 1979 and thrived in her nursing career.
She describes both of her stints at Augsburg as defining. As an 18-year-old, Mary excitedly but nervously ventured to the United States, without any family, to study at Augsburg.
“Being at Augsburg helped me integrate into the American culture,” Mary says, adding that Augsburg was, and still is, like a home to her. “College is a defining period in life when students are finding their home and a niche.”
Encouraging others to join
Through their gift, the Crofts are pleased to be playing an important part in making the Augsburg experience even more defining for students who will study in the future cross-disciplinary building.
“Having been a missionary, you make do with whatever is given to you,” Mary says.
And the new AWE-inspired study lounge in the CSBR is what Mary would like to give to current and future Augsburg students.