Longtime Stalnaker Hall receptionist Alice Cronin passed away July 18, according to an email from Provost Sue Mattison this summer. She was 68.
In her official capacity as the front desk receptionist, Cronin became known as the ‘dorm mom’ to many residents of Stalnaker, Mattison said in an email interview with the Times-Delphic.
“In this role, Alice greeted students and visitors who entered the hall, answering questions, providing resources and often just listening to students as they shared their daily life with her,” Mattison said. “Alice was responsible for sorting mail and took great joy in notifying students when they had packages arrive for them. Alice also assisted in overseeing the front desk operations, tracking student payroll, creating desk schedules and training desk staff.”
Mattison said Cronin’s commitment to the students at Drake made her a good fit for the role.
“Alice was a good fit for the Drake community as her first priority was to serve the students. She wanted to be sure they received the help and support that they needed,” Mattison said. “Alice developed friendships with many students and staff that she maintained even after they graduated or left Drake.”
Cronin made a lasting impression on Claire Hill, who also worked at Stalnaker’s front desk.
“She always greeted everyone when they walked in, so my first impression was that she was kind,” Hill said. “When I applied to the front desk, I ended up officially meeting her. Alice helped me to figure out my schedule, continuing to be kind, but also being a safe person to talk to as a scared freshman.”
Stalnaker front desk worker Ellie Uhrhammer said she also took note of Cronin’s sense of kindness when they met.
“I first met Alice during my first semester at Drake in Fall 2019. Before I met Alice, Peyton Johnson, Stalnaker’s Assistant Residence Hall Coordinator, told us to look out for the sweet lady at the front desk who would talk your ear off if given the chance. Then once I got to know her, she definitely lived up to that description,” Urhammer said. “She was incredibly kind and genuinely cared about everyone in our hall.”
Urhammer said Cronin consistently went out of her way to help students.
“I worked with Alice a lot. She taught all the Front Desk Assistant training sessions and was an incredible communicator. I’d get emails from her with random questions about mail or work all the time,” Urhammer said. “I’d also see her every day when I passed by the front desk in the morning for a class. She’d always smile, say hello, and address residents by name when we passed by. You could tell how much she valued her job and us as students.”
Hill said one incident in particular highlighted Cronin’s kindness: the day Hill went to work at the front desk right after finding out about a family member’s cancer diagnosis.
“I had not had time to process the news, so I walked to the desk solemnly and confused. Alice quickly noticed and asked me what was wrong. I told her what happened, and she responded by reassuring me,” Hill said. “Alice talked about people she knew who went through something similar, and their positive outcomes. It sticks out in my mind because she genuinely helped me so much in a time when I was so worried.”
Her compassion for her students earned her the unofficial title of ‘dorm mom,’ according to Urhammer.
“To the students in her hall, she was our ‘dorm mom,’” Urhammer said. “Everyone knew her and chatted with her when we passed by. She helped keep our hall safe and always had our backs.”
Hill and Urhammer both found out about Cronin’s passing from an email sent to students by Mattison on July 21.
“I was shocked,” Hill said. “I had recently put in my application that I would like to work either in my own hall or in Stalnaker so I could work with her again. We had discussed throughout the year working together again and in my mind, I still would expect to see her sitting in her chair if I were to walk into Stalnaker again.”
Urhammer, who applied to be a front desk assistant at Cronin’s encouragement, said she felt similarly when she heard the news.
“I was initially shocked and sad that I was no longer going to see her,” Urhammer said. “I had just finished my application for Front Desk Assistant for the following semester. I texted my roommate, who also knew Alice, about it. She was also sad for the loss of our former dorm mom. When I got home from work that night, I lit a candle to honor Alice’s memory.”
Mattison said that the last time she saw Cronin was in May when she went to pick up welcome cards that Cronin had written to incoming Drake students.
“I find it appropriate that the last official work Alice did for campus was welcoming a new group of students to Drake,” Mattison said. “Alice was dedicated to the students and to Drake. She wanted every student to feel connected and was delighted when asked to work on this task. Alice will be missed.”