Bronze in the family
URBANA - Jennifer Croix will walk the hallway of the main University of Illinois Library this weekend and see her name cast in bronze on a plaque honoring the top students in the UI's Class of 2003.
She'll walk a little farther down the hall and find the name of Andrew Stein, her uncle, on the plaque for the Class of 1984. Then she'll cross to the opposite wall, and still farther down the hallway she'll find the name of Sara Claudine Perry, her grandmother and one of the top students in the Class of 1943.
Croix and her family will celebrate her graduation this weekend and the third generation of the family to make Bronze Tablet, an honor going to the top 3 percent of each graduating class at the UI.
"My primary goal was just to do well in my classes, but it was there in the back of my mind," Croix said. "If I got that, it would be an extra bonus."
Croix is not one to make a big deal out of her accomplishments, but she acknowledges she is a perfectionist.
She went to Edison Middle School in Champaign, but then she was home-schooled during high school because she was training for ice skating competitions with a coach in Indianapolis. She started taking courses at Parkland College at age 16 and spent two years there before transferring to the UI.
Croix will graduate with a degree in chemistry. She has been working in microbiology in a diagnostic lab at the College of Veterinary Medicine this year. She plans to work there next year, then go on to graduate school after that for a doctorate in pharmacology.
"I'd say she's pretty determined when there is something she wants to achieve," said Jennifer's mother, Tina Croix. "She certainly likes to excel academically. She was very focused on doing well in her classes from the time she started."
Her determination runs in the family.
Jennifer Croix's grandmother, now known as Claudine Stein, was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She earned a degree in Latin, then went on to law school at the UI.
"I'm like my granddaughter is now," Stein said. "She has worked night and day to get good grades."
Stein was the first woman to open her own law practice in Urbana. She practiced there for five years before moving from the area with her late husband, a civil engineer who had served in the Merchant Marine during World War II. Stein gave up practicing law to raise her six children, but she and her husband eventually returned to Champaign-Urbana.
The Steins expected all their children to attend college, and they all went to the UI. Claudine Stein said her children knew she graduated at the top of her class, but "I don't know that anybody particularly thought that much about it."
Among the two parents and the six children, the family has earned 13 UI degrees. Croix's is the 14th.
The Stein's youngest child, Andrew, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering at the UI. He works in sales for a software company in San Diego.
"I was always trying to do well in school," Andrew Stein said. "Knowing (Bronze Tablet) was something my mom had done, it was sort of a goal to try and make sure I could do it, too. Certainly what my mom did was more remarkable than what I did. I think the fact that she had a goal like that and she met it and was successful was always an inspiration to doing well in my own right.
"I was pretty proud of the fact that I could someday come back there and show my kids my mom's and my name," he continued. "I thought it was pretty cool."
Croix is the first of her generation in the family to reach college age.
Claudine Stein recently showed off a faded photograph of her son Andrew, dressed in his cap and gown for his college graduation, holding a very young Jennifer in his arms with his late father standing by his side.
None of the family was surprised when Croix made Bronze Tablet.
"I was sure she would because I knew how hard she had worked, but I thought, three generations, this is great," Claudine Stein said.
"She's a very studious niece," Andrew Stein said. "I actually wasn't surprised at all she got it. She's always driven to do very well."
When Croix see her name on the library wall today, she'll have both her uncle and her grandmother with her. Andrew Stein planned to fly here this weekend to surprise his niece and mother and attend graduation ceremonies.
You can reach Jodi Heckel at (217) 351-5216 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.