When Jennifer Crotty graduated in 1988, St. Thomas had played an obvious role in her life. What she didn’t know at the time was how large a role St. Thomas would continue to play: Three of her daughters – Kyley ’10, Logan ’12 and Sean ’15 – attended St. Thomas.
Together, the four Crotty women weave a powerful image of everything the school has to offer. While they were each drawn by a welcoming community, their academic interests and activities span a wide range.
“To see my mom and my sisters, whom I admire for their smarts and intelligence, and to see how St. Thomas has shaped them inspired me,” Sean said.
Inspiring academic curiosity
Jenny began her academic path at then-Mankato State University, but was having trouble thriving there; her mother encouraged her to return to St. Paul and enroll at St. Thomas, where Jenny’s sister, Mary, had recently graduated.
Jenny enrolled in the criminal justice program with the intention of becoming a police officer. Shortly after Jenny graduated she had Kyley, and being a mother gave her a new perspective on her potential career. She made the decision to stay home with her daughters – eventually all five of them.
While the family wasn’t always financially well off, Jenny said her daughters’ developed a loving dependency on one another, and Kyley, Logan and Sean spoke fondly of how their parents instilled in them a love of learning.
“I would call (my parents) lifelong learners,” Logan said. “They’re fascinated by the world and current events. Their conversation is just so … intelligent all the time. We’d just kind of listen. We wanted to be part of what they were talking about and what made us, I think, naturally kind of curious.”
Hand in hand came the expectation that all of them would attend college.
“What it all boiled down to was that we have God-given gifts and we need to use them,” Sean said. “We fortunately were given intelligence or at least a curiosity, and to not use it would be foolish.”
When Kyley began her college search, she knew she wanted a smaller campus with a strong science program and was hoping to play volleyball. While other schools more heavily pursued her for volleyball, Kyley came to St. Thomas because of its academic rigor. She graduated with a degree in biology and now works as a dentist.
Another added benefit of St. Thomas was how close to her family the campus was.
“My sisters would come and visit all the time, or I would go home,” Kyley said.
“What it all boiled down to was that we have God-given gifts and we need to use them. We fortunately were given intelligence or at least a curiosity, and to not use it would be foolish.” – Sean Crotty
A Catholic lens
Last Chance Mass, a Sunday evening Mass held in St. John Vianney Chapel, was, and continues to be, a favorite of the family. Jenny said she and her husband still attend about once a month.
“I love Father [Michael] Becker,” Jenny said. “I like being with the students. The seminarians are so dear as they hand out the song sheets, and I like to be back on campus.”
“Our friends that would come to the Mass would know [my family] would be coming and they would get excited, too: ‘Oh, we’ll get to see the little sisters and your mom!’” Kyley added.
Logan said the visits to Kyley, including attending Mass, played a large part in her coming to St. Thomas.
“I’ve always considered [Kyley] my role model,” Logan said. “I knew that family was the most important thing and I wanted to be close enough to drive home for somebody’s birthday or just to visit throughout the week. … I was looking for a small Catholic school, and I remember looking forward to being in a faith-based environment again for college – somewhere Mass would be really accessible and those values would be represented.”
While Logan entered St. Thomas intending to major in business, she wound up within the Catholic Studies Department.
“I was so influenced by the Catholic studies students that I met; they were so joyful and loved what they were learning, and that was impressive to me,” Logan said.
One of the hallmarks of Logan’s St. Thomas experience was studying abroad in Rome.
“The community that we had in the Bernardi household was incredible,” Logan said, citing that she enjoys knowing current priests who were seminarians there with her.
Our friends that would come to the Mass would know (my family) would be coming and they would get excited, too: ‘Oh, we’ll get to see the little sisters and your mom!’ – Kyley Crotty
‘Honor of being the third’
Sean, who played volleyball and was hoping for a Catholic university, also considered other schools, but had been on the St. Thomas campus so frequently already that, “St. Thomas was where I knew I wanted to go.”
“I get to have this honor of being the third to go to St. Thomas,” Sean added. “It speaks volumes as to what the university offers.”
Sean also was considering going into business, but ultimately wound up in the Communication and Journalism Department, where she was a sports reporter for TommieMedia.
“Looking back at it now, to have a liberal arts education was such a blessing for me,” said Sean, who now works for State Farm in Oklahoma. “The real world isn’t just what you want to do – you’re going to encounter things you’re not comfortable (with) or are not the best at. To have that type of education at an environment like St. Thomas made you feel accepted or called on to do great things.”
The sisters said that having time together on campus made their relationships stronger: They could offer spaces for naps, a friend for dinner and advice on how to navigate the academic terrain.
A stronger family
While there are two younger Crotty sisters, one is enrolled at the University of Minnesota, the other likely to follow her. As they’d visited Grace Hall with Kyley when they were as young as 8 or 9, Jenny joked that they’d had too much exposure to St. Thomas.
For now, all of them enjoy continuing to visit campus, particularly for Last Chance Mass, and commented on how beautiful the Anderson Student Center and the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex are.
“It’s neat how even though these buildings are new and modern, they still have the same kind of façade and general style,” Kyley said.
Together, the Crotty women spoke of how incredible it is that one place gave them all formation, whether through the broad liberal arts base, the Catholic lens, playing sports or studying abroad.
Logan, who is at home with her infant son and in the process of starting a business, echoed the difficulties her mother faced, saying it isn’t easy to make a decision about whether to work, stay home with a child or attempt a blend of both. While Logan pointed out they were all prepared to work in their respective fields, a St. Thomas education was about more than just technical skills.
“We had a safe, close-knit community,” Logan said. “The liberal arts education, in particular, gets you thinking about new things. We were laughing about logic and philosophy, and all these new experiences that we had. I think that’s why it’s worth it. … It’s formative. [My education] taught me how to be an even better mom and person.”