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New scholarship initiative seeks 200 donors for College of Education students
Monday, May 02, 2011

Heichberger and Crino
Dr. Robert Heichberger and Dr. Estelle Crino have created endowments to benefit students in the SUNY Fredonia College of Education and are encouraging graduates to support the program through the new College of Education Committee of 200.

The two will be honored by the College of Education at the COE Homecoming Breakfast Reception, Saturday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m. at the Alumni House.

More about Homecoming>>

Update:  Dr. Heichberger and Dr. Crino will be honored by the College of Education at the COE Homecoming Breakfast Reception, Saturday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m. at the Alumni House.

What began as a worthy enough initiative by one individual to benefit the SUNY Fredonia College of Education and future educational leaders that it prepares has grown into a far-reaching mission to engage scores of College of Education graduates to support their alma mater.

The new College of Education Committee of 200 is being launched as a unique fundraising opportunity to encourage 200 College of Education alumni to each donate $200 to create new $2,000 scholarships to help attract the best and brightest high school students to SUNY Fredonia and, ultimately, successful careers in education.

A year ago, Dr. Robert Heichberger, innovative leader, beloved teacher in the College of Education, executive assistant to the University president for 10 years and a longtime Fredonia College Council member, launched the Heichberger Family and Scholars of Leadership Endowment Fund to strengthen school leadership training. His generous act quickly appealed to colleagues, who in turn made their own donations and became Heichberger Fund partners.

But that was just the beginning.

Dr. Estelle Crino, a retired school principal in Gowanda and one of seven students enrolled in the original Educational Administration/Supervision program launched by Heichberger in the mid 1970s, was one of those Heichberger Fund supporters. So inspired by the fund and ever mindful of the importance of today’s Educational Leadership program, Crino took the initiative to establish her own endowment to address a specific need very dear to her own 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,” Crino explained. What she created was 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,” Crino said.

Being a little bit of a “risk-taker,” she noted, is almost a prerequisite to becoming an administrator. “Sometimes they need a little push.”

Crino is certainly qualified to present that observation, having served 14 years as an elementary school principal in Gowanda, six years as a teacher in Silver Creek and several years as an adjunct professor in the SUNY Fredonia College of Education. She also taught in Buffalo and Rockland County and was a nun with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, near Olean, for 19 years before becoming a public school teacher.

In 1976, while teaching in Silver Creek, Crino enrolled in the Educational Administration/Supervision program to earn the certificate of advanced study and ultimately become a school principal. “I always wanted to go further, wanted to have a little more say in education and have more parental involvement.”

A New Jersey native, Crino earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Bonaventure University, received two master’s degrees and ultimately a doctorate in Curriculum Planning and Development. Later in her career, she taught graduate courses in SUNY Fredonia’s Educational Leadership program.

Heichberger recognized Crino back then as a very capable, very articulate person -- already possessing considerable experience in both religious and secular educational settings – who was also an artist, so she could communicate effectively with words and imagery.

“She was also a most effective and talented instructor in the course she taught in Education Supervision,” Heichberger remembered.

For more than 10 years, Crino chaired annual banquets sponsored by the Educational Administration program that drew as many as 150 people, including alumni, current students, practicing school administrators and SUNY Fredonia administrators.

Heichberger established his endowment to acknowledge the very prominent role the university, which he joined in 1964, has played in the Heichberger family. His wife, Elaine, earned a master’s in Education at SUNY Fredonia and went on to supervise student-teachers assigned to Gowanda and Forestville schools for 14 years. Their daughter, Lisa Heichberger Peterson, now a family practicing physician in South Carolina, received a degree in Biology and Medical Technology from SUNY Fredonia in 1994. Mark, their son, completed the Educational Leadership program 10 years ago, and his wife, Gretchen, earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education at SUNY Fredonia. Both are teachers in the Springville Griffith Institute Central School District.

The Heichberger Fund also acknowledges the several hundred men and women who have completed the Educational Leadership program and gone on to successful careers in educational administration throughout the country and in many foreign countries, in addition to leadership rolls in government, business and private industry.

Heichberger says he’s delighted to see Crino and other program graduates rally behind the College of Education and SUNY Fredonia by establishing their own endowment or donating to existing programs through the Fredonia College Foundation.

“I’ve always had a great love of Fredonia, and Bob and I have been friends for many years. I think the world of him,” said Crino, who retired in 1993 and operates Pinewoods Cottage, a bed and breakfast near Silver Creek. She attended last year’s reception that recognized the 10-year anniversary of the Educational Leadership program’s reinstatement and honored Heichberger, who was the founder of the program and its director for two decades.

Crino said the Educational Leadership program is very important to Chautauqua County. “There are programs in Administration at larger universities, but I think that being in a smaller university and College of Education there is more opportunity here for people to interact with one another,” she said. “It’s very valuable, even for people who want to go back for a refresher course. Learning is a life-long process.”

Donations made to the College Committee of 200, along with specific endowments, help SUNY Fredonia strengthen educational programs. To learn more about giving to the Fredonia College Foundation or joining the College of Education Committee of 200 Challenge, contact Heather McKeever, associate director of Development, at 673-3321 or

“It is an opportunity for graduates to continue support for their profession, to continue that outreach and professional commitment. It is important for them to continue their influence and leadership for new students as they enter the program and the profession of educational leadership,” Heichberger said.

“It shows the depth of commitment they have for others and the institution and the respect they have for education at all levels.” 

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