Last week, office coordinator Sharon Crouch’s office was the center of activity in the communication department. People piled flowers on her desk and gave her hand-written cards. Colleagues and students stopped by to remind her to keep in touch or wish her luck in her next stage of life. After 31 years of faithfully serving at Wheaton College, Sharon Crouch was retiring.
Though she has worked here for 31 years, Crouch originally planned to stay at Wheaton for only five. But after receiving her masters from Wheaton, Crouch continued to work as a secretary in the communication department.
Though her primary job as office coordinator was to work for the department chair, Crouch also supported faculty, TAs and students. She handled internships and speech competency exams, assigned advisees and efficiently operated the office. In Crouch’s words, “The job is not boring.” As she pondered her time at Wheaton, Crouch said, “It’s just made me realize that the Lord is in charge and he has a good plan.”
Crouch has many memories from her 31 years here. From its original tiny quarters, Crouch has traveled with the communication department to where it now resides in the Billy Graham Center. She remembers a time when the department was located down a maze of hallways. The first office space was so small that students had to sit on the floor. “It helps that every time I move I get a bigger office,” Crouch laughed.
The communication department is not the only part of Wheaton that has grown. Crouch recalls when there was a road in front of Edman Chapel and the Sports and Recreation Center did not exist. “I was here almost in the prehistoric,” Crouch joked.
She remembers the walk she took from one building to another in order to use a photocopier. Once, before the advent of computers, Crouch typed out a law student’s letter of recommendation 15 times to create 15 copies. She can remember the day Wheaton received its first computers because it was the day she received hers as well.
Though Wheaton’s geography and technology have significantly changed, Crouch believes some things have not. The essence of Wheaton students remains the same. Though Crouch admits that technology and social media have impacted students in some ways, she said, “I still see their exuberance — and I still see their eagerness for life and the future.” According to Crouch, it is the students’ energy that keeps her young.
The students have not changed, and neither has the college’s thoughtful and careful dedication to its principles. “There’s always things happening, because it’s human nature,” Crouch said. “But (the college administration) always tried to stand for what they believe in. So I think that’s a good thing.”
As she reminisced on her time at Wheaton, Crouch continually referred to the deep relationships she has formed both in her department and in the wider Wheaton community. From sports banter to spiritual conversations, she has shared life with those in her department. Crouch explained that she respects her colleagues and they respect her. She said that “knowing that you’re perceived as a colleague and not just a worker . . . that you’re valued as a human being . . . makes all the difference in the world.”
Crouch credits the deep relationships she has formed not only to her colleagues’ respect but also to their genuineness. “They back up what they believe and what they teach,” Crouch explained. “It’s in their everyday expression.”
This has created not only a good work environment but also a great spiritual one. Whatever struggles they face, Crouch and her colleagues confide in each other and pray for each other. As she moves into a new stage of life, the memories Crouch takes with her will center on these friendships.
Occasionally hectic and busy, Crouch’s job has not always been easy. One of the many things Crouch looks forward to in retirement are pajama days, when she can take time to relax with her family. But she also looks forward to whatever new ministry God has in store for her. God’s plans for Crouch are not over yet.
Wheaton will miss Crouch. Associate professor of communication Read Schuchardt has called Crouch “Wheaton’s gold standard.” For her part, Crouch said, “I’m just thankful that I came to Wheaton College and that it’s been a good fit, and it’s been a good experience, and it will be a good memory.”