Paying It Forward

Photography by Todd Hido

Joe Crane '53.

Over the decades, tens of thousands of Saint Mary’s students have received scholarships, grants or financial aid that has allowed them to pay tuition, room and board, or both, at the College. Many either would not have been able to enter or remain in school without the help.

Some of the most poignant stories come from alumni who faced dire financial circumstances when they were at the College, and who received money even though they may not have asked for help. In many cases, the Brothers or administrators found a way to pull together funds that allowed these promising students to graduate.

Whether financial aid was awarded for need or merit, the help is not forgotten by grateful recipients. Many vow that someday, they will give back to help other students in need. Dozens of alumni and friends have established endowed scholarships, and thousands of others have given to the general fund so that money can be given out without restrictions.

Here are the stories of five alumni who are doing what they can to help others receive a Saint Mary’s education.

Making Ends Meet

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.

A Unique Perspective

Yolande Rowe '73.

As one of the first women to enroll at the College, Yolande Rowe ’73 differed from most of her classmates. Starting at Saint Mary’s as a 42-year-old mother of two from Britain, however, came with a unique set of challenges.

When Rowe arrived as a junior in 1971, the College was still making adjustments after more than 100 years as an all-male institution (women’s restrooms were at a premium, she remembers). Still, she describes her transition to undergraduate life fondly.

“It was wonderful because kids really accepted me, even though in every class I was the only woman and I was old enough to be everyone’s mother,” she recalls.

Life at Saint Mary’s was certainly much easier than Rowe’s teenage years during World War II in Plymouth, England. On the frequent occasions German planes bombed her hometown, Rowe completed homework by lantern light in her basement. Standard adolescent challenges took on a more serious cast in a world where she served coffee to soldiers leaving for the front and classmates were killed in air raids.

Even during wartime, however, teachers and parents expected life to continue and commitments to be met.

“You learn there are no excuses for things not being done,” Rowe remembers. “The only excuse was being wounded or dead.”

After the war, Rowe immigrated with her family to San Francisco in 1949 following two years in Canada.

“It was like falling into a candy store,” she says of the American postwar cornucopia. “In England during the war, there was very little food.”

Settling down in the Bay Area, Rowe moved to Orinda in 1952 and started a family in the 60s. But after a divorce, she decided to finish her bachelor’s degree and earn a teaching credential. It wasn’t easy, with two young children at home. But with her mother’s encouragement and financial support, Rowe enrolled as a junior at Saint Mary’s in 1971.

Within her major of history, Rowe’s professors appreciated her sense of perspective as an atypical undergraduate, someone who’d both started a family and lived through a war in another country.

“Yolande added so much to class discussions,” says Ron Isetti, one of Rowe’s teachers. “Her memories of living as a young girl in the United Kingdom during the World War II bombings were particularly vivid and deeply affected her fellow students.”

For her senior year, Rowe decided to pay her own way, taking out $2,000 in student loans. A few days later and without any explanation, the Christian Brothers gave Rowe a partial scholarship.

“I still don’t know why they did it,” she says.

When Rowe graduated, starting a career as a California teacher proved difficult. As public school funding dipped during the mid-70s, jobs were scarce and Rowe bounced around between substitute teaching positions throughout Contra Costa County.

“Name a school and a grade — I probably taught there,” she notes.

At one point, an Orinda neighbor who worked as the American Presidential Line’s chief port engineer for worldwide fleet maintenance encouraged Rowe to apply to work in APL’s shipping container business. She got a job as assistant to terminal operations, providing a significant boost in pay and security for her family.

“At first, all I knew is that we were supposed to take stuff off ships and put stuff on,” she says. “But it ended up being a wonderful job for 17 years.”

Rowe’s duties at APL included working with the Defense Department to process re-commissioned ships from the Concord Naval Weapons Station for the 1991 Gulf War. APL also paid for her to return to Saint Mary’s for her Executive MBA, which she earned by working with the same steadfast study group for the balance of the 21-month program.

Now retired, Rowe is on campus every month for an event with Moraga Movers, a seniors’ organization which she helps organize. She’s given steadily to the College over the years and jokes that she thinks she owns a door to one of the buildings at this point.

“I’ve donated because of the experience I had at Saint Mary’s and the friends I made,” she says. “It was truly like a rebirth for me and I owe so much to my alma mater.”

Life-Changing Experiences

Christopher Major '83.

When he was at Moreau High School in Hayward, Christopher Major ’83 accomplished a lot as the football quarterback and a baseball outfielder, along with being the first black class president. But he didn’t think much about where he would go to college.

“I had a goal for college, but not much of a plan,” he says. “I was just in the moment every day. Until the day Saint Mary’s College gave me a plan.”

That day came when the Moreau baseball team played De La Salle, and then-SMC coach Miles McAfee was in the stands.

The next thing Major knew, he was offered a baseball scholarship at Saint Mary’s. Major’s high school grades weren’t great; he remembers having a 2.6 or 2.7 GPA. But he was accepted into Saint Mary’s High Potential Program, which offers access and support services to students from historically low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Major did well at Saint Mary’s, and after graduating he spent years working in the corporate world as an insurance risk manager, loan officer and insurance agent. He now looks back at the 1980s as a time when financial success and material values were more important than helping others and giving back to the community.

In the mid-90s, Major realized that he had “hit the wall” in his career, and he decided that he wanted to work with young people. He received a teacher’s credential and taught special education students. Major dreamed of starting a small nonprofit company for disadvantaged youngsters. In 2005, he started the Hayward Youth Academy, where he is the president.

The academy provides comprehensive educational, recreational and support services for youths ages 9 to 15. The program focuses on academics, athletics, life coaching and health and nutrition support. It also provides assistance to families and guardians through community resource information and parenting workshops.

Major, who also works with the YMCA Eden Area and the Treeview Little League in Hawyard, says anyone can make a difference through volunteering with young people.

“The time you spend with kids tells them that they have value,” Major says. “I deal with a lot of wealthy kids whose parents want to write me a check. I say, ‘Write me a check, but also come down here and help the kids.’ When parents and guardians spend time with children, they start to learn more about their own kids’ fears and aspirations.”

For many years, Major wasn’t very involved with Saint Mary’s, and he had also fallen away from his Christian faith. A combination of things helped him get through his personal crisis.

In 2005, he called Pat Fox ’84, an SMC baseball teammate and his former roommate, who told him “until God touches your heart, you’re always going to be searching.” Fox also urged Major to “live an unselfish life of service.”

The same year, he saw a picture of former SMC president Brother Mel Anderson, a beloved figure for many alumni, in Saint Mary’s magazine. That photo sparked memories of Major’s years at the College.

“I said, ‘That’s when things were really cool,’ ” Major recalls, becoming choked up at how deeply touched he was at the time. “I had read about all the problems at the school, but all of the sudden I saw Brother Mel’s picture and I picked up the phone. I said, ‘Put Brother Mel in the magazine again.’ Everybody loved Mel.”

That was the beginning of the Brother Mel 50-buck Club. Some loyal alumni, including Major, send a $50 check to the College every time Brother Mel appears in Saint Mary’s magazine.

Major says that because Saint Mary’s emphasizes helping others, he has become much more active and engaged at the College. He is a member of the President’s Club and attends events like Dine with Alumni, the Summer Wine Festival, High Potential Program functions and the Reunion Weekend. His current goal is organizing his Class of 1983 to participate more fully with the College both through activities and financial support.

A passion for Major these days is senior basketball player Diamon Simpson, whom Major calls “one of Hayward’s great success stories.” Simpson, the WCC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007–08, is a graduate of Hayward High.

The Hayward Youth Academy will sponsor three Diamon Simpson nights at men’s basketball home games this year. Major is raising money to buy 300 tickets at each of those games for Hayward youngsters to see Simpson and the Gaels play.

“As these young people see Diamon, they will have a personal example of what can be achieved through dedication and hard work, both academically and athletically,” Major says.

As Major reflects on his new mission and the life experiences that have shaped him, he smiles and is enthusiastic.

“I’ve got spirituality, I’ve got support, and now Saint Mary’s is giving me an opportunity to give back some of what it gave to me.”

From Quarterback to Ambassador

Tim Rosenkranz ’90.

Frank Capra couldn’t have come up with a better feel-good story than the 1988 Gaels football season. It had it all — a close-knit group of players and coaches, a packed stadium and a last-minute, come-from-behind touchdown that not only clinched a victory over Santa Clara but also capped the Gaels’ first undefeated and untied football season ever.

The star in the drama was Tim Rosenkranz ’90, a quarterback who wasn’t recruited by other colleges because of his relatively small 5-foot-10, 175-pound size. In the 1988 Little Big Game, Rosenkranz threw that game-winning pass to tight end Jon Braff ’92 with 37 seconds left, touching off pandemonium in the stands and leading players to carry head coach Craig Rundle off the field.

“It was amazing. It was dramatic. It was climatic,” Rosenkranz recalls. “It was everything you wanted for the culmination of the perfect season.”

Rosenkranz, a business and economics major, went into business with his father at Los Angeles Galvanizing, where he is now in charge of production at the successful company. (His brothers Jamie ’94 and Lance also work at the company.) Rosenkranz, who also owns A&B Sand Blast, lives in Huntington Beach with his wife, Kelly. He has four children; a daughter, Ashley, who began at Boston University this fall, and three sons, Cade, 7, Riley, 4, and Quinn, 2.

The former quarterback credits the College’s Seminar program and small class sizes with helping him get the most out of Saint Mary’s academically.

“Seminar forces you to read and be in a small environment and talk,” he says. “I don’t think I was great student, but it forced me to do more than my nature wanted to do.”

Rosenkranz and his 1988 teammates also forced themselves to achieve the most they could on the gridiron. After the team went 5–5 in his freshman year and 8–3 in his sophomore year, the ’88 team’s goal was to win every game, something that had never happened in the history of football at the College, which began in 1892.

“It wasn’t about becoming the only undefeated team in the history of Saint Mary’s,” he says. “It was about us. We had a lot of high-quality football players led by some pretty special coaches.”

The team’s achievements were heralded in Sports Illustrated, which covered the victory over the Broncos as well as recapping SMC’s storied football history that included victories over Fordham University in the 1930s and the 1940s teams led by Squirmin’ Herman Wedemeyer ’49.

Rundle, who is now head football coach at Albion College in Michigan, gives a lot of the credit for the Gaels’ success in the late 1980s to Rosenkranz.

“He was a real intense competitor. He was a great leader,” Rundle says. “The way he competed, he really raised the level of play of the guys around him.”

Rosenkranz was disappointed when the College dropped football in 2004, saying that if the program had been more competitive it could have recruited students who instead went to other WCC schools that had already dropped football, including Santa Clara.

“It was a great experience for us, and you hate to think there are other kids who aren’t going to have that opportunity,” he says.

However, he says he understands the reasons behind Saint Mary’s decision to discontinue football.

Rosenkranz has maintained his connections to the College. He’s a member of the President’s Club and participates in Southern California events. He was inducted into the SMC Hall of Fame individually in 2000 and as part of the 1988 team in 2008.

“It’s a great place. That’s why I chose it,” he says.

He also remains in touch with his teammates and Rundle, even traveling to Michigan to see Rundle’s son Troy play football at Albion College.

Rundle, who says he hates to play favorites among his former players, calls Rosenkranz “a special young man.”

“I think he’s been a success in life as much as he was in football,” Rundle says. “I guess I’m more proud of him in terms of what he’s done with his life. He’s been active with the College and giving back to the school. He’s been a great father. He’s a great ambassador for what Saint Mary’s can do for a young man.”

A Smart Investment

Cindy (Neander) Cooper ’96.

Cindy (Neander) Cooper ’96 is so grateful for the scholarship assistance she received from Saint Mary’s that she has vowed to pay it all back — two times over.

As Vacaville High School’s 1992 valedictorian, Cooper had no trouble getting into college. Tuition, however, was another matter.

“My parents didn’t graduate from college, but education was always stressed in our home,” says Cooper, whose father is a postal worker and mother is a teacher’s aide. “Without the means to attend college, I knew needed scholarships.”

When a friend told her about Saint Mary’s, she visited Moraga and “absolutely fell in love with the place.”

Cooper accelerated her already intense scholarship search, winning $25,000 in Vacaville community scholarships and obtaining $25,000 in federal and state aid. Then, she received some assistance from an unexpected source.

“What really surprised me was the $30,000 I received from Saint Mary’s alumni scholarships,” she says. “I was so impressed that these alumni donated to a general fund and trusted that the College would give the money to a deserving student.”

Cooper proved worth every penny. An economics major, she graduated as valedictorian and took a job with the Securities and Exchange Commission in San Francisco, where she still works 12 years later.

“I love the SEC’s mission of protecting investors and the integrity of the financial markets,” she says.

Reflecting on her time at Saint Mary’s, Cooper says it not only opened doors in her career, but also was the basis for lifelong friendships. She even met her husband, Kevin, who worked for Sodexo dining services at the College during her senior year.

“It was everything I’d hoped for. Without fraternities or sororities, students form bonds by dorm, by major and by hobbies,” says Cooper, who worked as an RA in De La Salle for two years. “As an only child, I appreciated that camaraderie.”

Since graduating, she has always searched for ways to give back. During her five years on the Alumni Board of Directors, she helped launch Gaelfest as a revitalized homecoming event during basketball season. She also organizes the annual Summer Wine Festival, a fundraiser for student scholarships. In August, more than 200 people gathered at the Soda Center to sample California wines, including Concannon, Brother Timothy Estate Cabernet and others with connections to the College’s illustrious winemaking tradition.

Even with her volunteer efforts, Cooper wanted to do more to acknowledge the alumni generosity that enabled her to attend Saint Mary’s. So she made the promise to pay back all her scholarships from the College, with a goal of giving $60,000.

“It will take me a while since I’m a government employee,” she says with a laugh. “But my husband’s been very supportive, even though he graduated from a college that I won’t mention.”