Joe Crane '53

Joe Crane '53. Photo by Todd Hido.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2008 edition of Saint Mary's magazine.

As intramural commissioner in the early 1950s, Joe Crane ’53 was a jack-of-all-trades. He drew up schedules, subbed in for injured players and even called balls and strikes when visiting teams came to campus for exhibition games. He took his umpiring responsibilities seriously and wouldn’t think of giving the Gaels an unfair home-field advantage.

“I did it honestly and ethically,” he recalls. “One time, my roommate Al Ancich (’53) slid into home plate, and I called him out. I thought he was going to kill me.”

It should be no surprise, then, that the trustworthy Crane has enjoyed a distinguished 55-year career in banking. He has spent the last three decades as a financial and civic leader in Stockton, including the last three years as senior vice president with Farmers & Merchants Bank.

Crane says running the Saint Mary’s intramural program was excellent training for customer service and branch management. He saved enough money in the intramural budget to throw an end-of-the-year banquet for athletes at the Sea Wolf Restaurant in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It was a memorable night out for Gaels, who were usually lucky to afford an occasional hamburger and beer at Casa Orinda.

“It was a great learning experience,” he says. “At the time, intramurals was the largest student organization on campus. Boy, it was a lot of work.”

Intramural sports not only helped preserve Saint Mary’s school spirit during the lean Korean War years, when enrollment dropped so steeply that the College canceled some intercollegiate sports programs. They also helped Crane pay for his education when unexpected financial complications almost kept him from staying at Saint Mary’s.

After his parents divorced in 1951, Crane told the formidable Brother President Thomas Levi, his former principal at Christian Brothers High in Sacramento, that he would have to finish his final two years at Sacramento State. The president said the Brothers would find a way for him to stay, and they did, through a combination of scholarship funds and money Crane earned from the intramural program.

“I am where I am today because of Brother Thomas’ generosity,” Crane insists.

Crane has never taken the debt lightly. In gratitude to the Brothers, he has embraced every opportunity to support the College, including as president of the Alumni Association and the Board of Regents.

He also helped establish a permanent link between his alma mater and the Central Valley by setting up an endowed scholarship for students from Saint Mary’s High School in Stockton. The late John Leykam, the College’s longtime public relations director and Crane’s friend, came up with the scholarship idea when Crane retired in 1996 as CEO and president of Union Safe Deposit Bank.

“Instead of having the bank give me a gold watch — since I already had a watch — John and I had them make the initial contribution to the scholarship fund,” Crane recalls.

Today, the C. Joseph Crane Endowed Scholarship fund stands at nearly $570,000. The interest on the fund currently allows top Saint Mary’s High students to receive $27,000 in annual scholarships at SMC. Crane says he hopes to grow the fund to $1 million.

“I feel so good about this,” Crane says. “As long as there’s a Saint Mary’s High School in Stockton, and as long as there’s a Saint Mary’s College, these kids will have a chance to go to college.”

Crane has also served as a roving goodwill ambassador for Saint Mary’s in Central California. Named “Stocktonian of the Year” in 2001, he has served in leadership positions with the United Way, the San Joaquin Business Council and St. Bernadette’s Parish. He also helped organize the Central Valley alumni chapter, bringing graduates together for an annual event with Brother President Ronald Gallagher.

“In addition to getting people hooked on Saint Mary’s, Joe is highly respected in Stockton,” says Brother Dominic Berardelli, special assistant to Brother Ronald. “People trust him, which is a wonderful reputation to have.”

More than five decades since graduating, Crane is grateful to be in a position to help the College that helped him when he scrimped and saved his way through his undergraduate days.

“I truly believe I owe everything I have to Saint Mary’s,” he says.