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In Memoriam: Francine Cronin

A portrait of Francine Cronin.

Francine Cronin, NC State’s associate vice chancellor for university development, passed away April 11, 2017, following a battle with cancer.

Cronin joined NC State in October 2015 and played a critical role in laying the foundation for the university’s $1.6 billion Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign, launched publicly this past October. She assembled and prepared the Campaign Cabinet of staff and volunteers, established and led campaign working groups in key areas, and made several important hires. Her energy and positive attitude fueled collaboration on her team and across the university, colleagues said.

“Francine was an incredible leader and teammate,” said Brian Sischo, vice chancellor for university advancement. “She hit the ground running at NC State and quickly began to meet challenges and to build and support a top-level team. Without her, we would not have had such a successful launch to a fundraising effort that will make such a difference for our university and for our students.

“We express our deepest condolences to Francine’s family and friends as well as to all of her colleagues. She will be missed.”

Cronin came to NC State with more than 25 years of experience in university development at four previous institutions, including a leadership role in planning, implementing and managing several successful comprehensive fundraising campaigns. She had a track record of success across many fundraising areas, Sischo said, from implementing effective annual giving and major gifts programs to securing planned gifts and leading campaigns.

“Francine was passionate about the importance of outstanding higher education, and about making sure it remains affordable and accessible for students,” Sischo said. “Along with being a consummate professional and a person of the utmost integrity and creativity, she was also an incredibly kind person.”

In one example of her compassion, just weeks after arriving at the university, Cronin raised nearly $14,000 to help a stranger. On her way to work one morning in December 2015, she came across an accident scene; Kunal Chablani and his dog, Tony, had been hit by a vehicle as they crossed Hillsborough Street.

Cronin immediately parked her car and began to console Chablani. She told him that she would make sure his more seriously injured dog got topnotch care at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine – and that she would pay for that care.

“I’m an animal lover,” Cronin told local television station WRAL at the time. “I have a dog, and I thought, if I was in that exact same situation, my concern would be for my dog as well. I just looked at him, and I told him, ‘I will watch out for your dog and don’t worry about the vet bills.’”

When Tony’s surgery and health care proved to cost well over $10,000, more than Cronin had expected, she quickly set about securing gifts from nearly 300 donors to supplement her own substantial contribution. She said she was humbled by the generous response and any money not needed to help Tony would go to a fund at CVM that assists pet owners with paying for care.

The Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, also was at the accident scene, helped raise money and called Cronin a great example of what the holiday season should be about – a hero who with the courage to take a risk and help someone she’d never met.

“That’s a rare person,” Petty told WRAL. “But it’s a person who can inspire the rest of us. The next time we’re in one of those situations, what do we want to do? She’s made us believe that we can do amazing things.”

Tony eventually succumbed to his injuries, but many NC State colleagues and friends continued to make gifts to the vet school and to other university programs in Cronin’s honor during her illness.

Prior to joining NC State, Cronin had served as senior assistant vice president for capital projects and advancement communications and associate director of university campaigns at the University of Rochester, where she helped launch a $1.2 billion capital campaign. As a staff member at Rochester beginning in 2010, Cronin expanded communications effectiveness through new regional networks and helped establish the university’s first faculty and staff giving campaign. She also held development and advancement positions at Emory University, Rochester Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology Foundation at the State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome.

A native of Utica, New York, Cronin earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and public relations from SUNY Geneseo and a master’s degree in career and human resource development from the Rochester Institute of Technology.