“Education is power,” says John J. Cronin Jr. ’74. “By giving people knowledge, you enable them to become the master or mistress of their own destiny.”

Cronin’s own life is proof of his philosophy, which also inspired him to establish an estate gift benefiting Wagner College students.

Born and raised on Staten Island, Cronin was the only child of a homemaker and a grocery store clerk. His parents fully supported him to attain a college education, and Cronin earned his tuition money by working 25 hours a week at a local grocery store for six years, throughout undergraduate and graduate school.

At Wagner, he majored in history. In high school, he found history interesting, and he had a knack for memorizing dates. Under Wagner professors like George Rappaport, however, Cronin discovered a new way of approaching history. “It wasn’t just the recitation of facts but the whys,” Cronin says.

He struggled to meet Rappaport’s expectations, making it all the more memorable and satisfying when he finally succeeded.

“Who would have thought when I graduated with a BA that I would become a bank executive?”

Cronin also recalls with appreciation Robert Kaczorowski, professor of history, and Charlie Kraemer, the legendary longtime professor who founded the business and economics department. By his final year of college, Cronin was thinking about law school and took courses in business law and accounting. “I loved it!” he says. Soon after graduation, he enrolled in the MBA program in accounting at St. John’s University.

While earning his MBA, he went to work in banking in New York and New Jersey. He earned his CPA license, and for most of his 31-year banking career served as the lead internal auditor.

“Who would have thought when I graduated with a BA that I would become a bank executive?” he says. He credits his liberal arts education with giving him the broader viewpoint needed to excel in business.

He was able to retire early, at age 55, and has put his talents to work as chair of the finance committee for St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Staten Island and as a board member for his local library in New Providence, New Jersey.

Combining his interests in three areas — baseball, history, and statistics —he devotes about 20 hours per week to research and writing about baseball history. He has published several articles in the Society for American Baseball Research publication Baseball Research Journal.

Having designated the College as a beneficiary in his will, Cronin is a member of Wagner’s Heritage Society. His annual donations to the College for more than 30 years also make him a member of the Anchor Society.

“It’s not how much money you have, but what you do with it that’s important,” he says. “I mean, what you do with it for social good. I believe in giving back to Wagner, because education enables you to become all you can become.”