A Legacy of Care

Jim and Pat Croston dedicated their lives to teaching.

To honor their legacies, their son turned to the Community Foundation for help in creating a scholarship in their names to support aspiring teachers.

Jim and Pat Croston looked back on a “wonderful life,” including their careers in education, last summer. (Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim.)

From as far back as she can remember, Abigail Freese knew she wanted to be a teacher.

She can even recall how she felt the first time she witnessed an “ah-ha” moment – that flash of joy and relief a student experiences at that magical point of understanding – after helping her twin brother, Josh, with a math assignment. “I explained to him a lesson he wasn’t understanding, and the smile on his face when he finally got it made me smile,” Freese wrote. “It was as if I had made a difference for him that day. Ever since … I have craved that feeling of helping others and making an impact on students.”

Freese is now a student at the University of South Dakota majoring in secondary math education. As she enters her senior year at USD, support from the Jim and Pat Croston Family Scholarship, administered through the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, is helping to ease some of the financial burden associated with attaining her degree.

This year, the Community Foundation awarded over $400,000 in scholarships to more than 150 local students. The scholarships are “funded by donors who are passionate about investing in the future through the power of education and are administered by the Foundation,” said Patrick Gale, the Community Foundation’s vice president for community investment.

Passionate donors like Kevin Croston, who created the Jim and Pat Croston Family Scholarship to honor the legacy of his parents, two life-long educators whose love for teaching still shines through today.

Jim and Pat Croston
Married for 62 years, Jim and Pat Croston dedicated their lives to teaching. (Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim.)

‘A Wonderful Life’

Reflecting on their careers in education, Jim and Pat Croston still smile at memories from their time in the classroom.

Jim spent 18 years teaching math and science at Edison Junior High (now Edison Middle School) and 17 years at Axtel Park Junior High, first as an assistant principal, then as principal.

Pat taught specialized reading at Franklin Elementary and language arts and social studies at Patrick Henry Junior High (now Patrick Henry Middle School). She also served as an assistant principal at Hawthorne Elementary and as principal at Lowell Elementary.

Looking back, the couple, who have been married for 62 years, say they feel lucky. “We reminisce quite often and always say, ‘What a wonderful life we’ve had,’” Pat said. “Getting to work with kids – it almost keeps you young. To this day, we still have former students that come up to us when we’re out and about to say thanks. That’s the reward of teaching.”

Honoring the Past, Creating Possibility for the Future

Kevin Croston was trying to find a way to celebrate his parents and honor the legacy of care and dedication they built throughout their careers when he came upon the idea of creating a named scholarship for aspiring teachers. He turned to the Community Foundation for help in establishing and administering the Jim and Pat Croston Family Scholarship. In addition to celebrating Jim and Pat’s careers, the scholarship also recognizes the teaching career of Kevin’s sister, Kelly.

“The Foundation was so terrific. Their openness to working with us and their willingness to make my parents feel a part of the selection process was so great,” Kevin said. “Because of that flexibility and that relationship, we set that fund up and since then, my parents have gotten to feel like they’ve been making a difference for young people going into education. I don’t know if you can give a better gift than that.”

The Jim and Pat Croston Family Scholarship, Kevin said, is not only an investment in the future; it also recognizes two people who dedicated their lives to a cause they loved.

“The thing about my parents, which I think is such a gift to the kids they taught, and to the scholarship recipients – is that they really loved what they did. They both think they won the lottery,” Kevin said. “They think they did meaningful work. They loved the kids. They loved their colleagues. So for aspiring teachers to see that – what a gift.”

Administering scholarships is another way the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation is helping to create a better tomorrow, Kevin said.

“I believe we have a responsibility as a community to help each other get better and provide opportunities for others,” he said. “I got that from my parents. That’s how they were – they were constantly helping students with their homework, helping our family and helping others. I think the Community Foundation really embraces that community spirit in a way that reflects my beliefs and my parents’ beliefs.”