Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lois La Croix dies. She was the longest-serving administrator at the Lutheran Seminary

Lois La Croix, executive assistant to the president at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), died yesterday afternoon after a lengthy illness. A resident of Philadelphia’s Roxborough section, she was 59.

La Croix held two key administrative posts at LTSP over 25 years and was the school’s longest serving administrative staff person.

“Lois set the standard for being an exemplary administrative assistant,” said seminary president the Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey, who worked alongside La Croix for more than a decade. “She was at the center of everything. She anticipated every meeting, event, report, and meeting, and prepared the president’s office, staff, and faculty for their roles so that the school would have a chance to function at a high level. She believed in accountability and held us all to our commitments and responsibilities. You did not want to hear her say that the Board report would go out without your contribution because you were missing a deadline. She loved a challenge and rose to every new role presented to her. She could be firm in her expectations of colleagues, and yet she was readily available to graciously counsel students, staff, and faculty alike when needed. She will be missed and will always be remembered for her leadership at the seminary.” 

“I often thought of Lois as someone much like a provost at a larger institution of higher learning,” said Mark A. Staples, who served as LTSP’s director of communications from 1997 to 2005 and knew her well as a colleague. “She was much, much more than an assistant. She was well-organized with details regarding the life and history of the school and took responsibility for events and activities large and small. Lois contributed much strategically to the life of the school. She gave a lot of moral and detailed support whenever LTSP faced a challenge or emergency and always seemed calm and in control at such times. I often depended on her for critical information or background. Plus,” he said with a smile, “I ate a lot of candy.” La Croix was generous with little touches, he remembered. “She kept a stash of candy in a desk drawer that made visitors to the president’s office feel welcome. She never seemed to run out. She could be spot-on and focused whenever a critical situation demanded, but she also had the best sense of humor. I well recall her Halloween desk trinkets — a witch costume and pointed hat. She was a snappy dresser during much of her career, but on Halloween it did not faze her to be seen at the president assistant’s desk in costume.” La Croix was also a big-time fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. Whenever the Phillies played an afternoon baseball game, La Croix kept the game on at low volume at her desk.

Carrie Schwab, the executive assistant who has succeeded La Croix, remembered her predecessor’s “big, beautiful hats, her particular love of Halloween, and her laugh (bordering at times on a loud cackle) that was so full of life. I recall how Lois took me under her wing and mentored me when I moved to Philadelphia from the Midwest. My mom, who was concerned about my move to ‘the big city,’ felt comforted because Lois was a part of my world.” La Croix served as maid of honor when Carrie married Martin Schwab, who serves as the seminary’s business manager.

La Croix had requested that a memorial fund in her name be established for use to assist seminary staff in emergencies. “Establishing this fund is so like her,” said long time seminary faculty member the Rev. Dr. Katie Day. “Lois knew intimately the difficulties that staff could go through, and she wanted them to have a safety net. This was such a sensitive and caring gesture. I hope everyone who can will make a contribution to this fund.”

“She was on top of her job,” recalled Robert Blanck, Esq., the attorney who chaired the seminary’s board of trustees for about 30 years. “She had or quickly found answers for whatever question or problem I was trying to resolve.” Blanck, who knew La Croix throughout her seminary employment, said she was “helpful, cooperative, pleasant, and ever willing to lend assistance.”

The Rev. George E. Keck, retired director of admissions at LTSP knew La Croix practically her entire career. “Lois was a bit rebellious and decided not to go to college,” Keck recalled. “She instead spent time at the Lutheran Church in America Deaconess Center in Gladwyne to discern what to do with her life after high school.” The Lutheran Church in America was a predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination.

“Having no professional or college training Lois took an entry level job as a telephone receptionist at the Division for Professional Leadership (DPL) at 2900 Queen Lane in Philadelphia. (DPL, working with regional church jurisdictions called synods, oversaw the candidacy and requirements for the national church’s rostered professional leaders.)

“I was called to the DPL staff to develop new programming in 1978,” Keck remembered. “But no secretary was available. Lois began working for me part time in that capacity. It became quickly evident how organized she was, and she could spell better than I could. She and I learned our respective roles together. Since I was from Pittsburgh she introduced me to the Phillies and Eagles. As Lois developed skills on the job she developed a network of contacts working with synod candidacy committees and bishops. She arranged workshops and conferences and as computers came into vogue she mastered the art of preparing handbooks for candidacy committees of the dozens of regional synods.”

When the merger took place to form the ELCA, moving church offices from New York City and Philadelphia to Chicago, Keck and La Croix were both out of a job.

“I was appointed admissions director at LTSP, and was able to arrange for Lois to be appointed as my secretary,” Keck remembered. La Croix began her seminary career in July of 1987. She became executive assistant to President Robert G. Hughes several years later after a tragic traffic accident claimed the life of her predecessor, Laurie Simon.

“Lois was a very private individual in her personal life, but in birthday notes and comments to me she would always thank me for the opportunities provided to her.” Staples added that despite his frequent attempts to interview La Croix for a much-deserved story about her contributions, she resisted all such invitations.

La Croix is survived by her mother, Louise, of New Jersey. The funeral is private. A memorial service is being planned by the seminary with details to follow. Ms. La Croix requested that all donations in her memory for use in staff emergencies be sent to the Lois La Croix Staff Assistance Fund, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119, or call 215.248.6324.

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