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(May 3, 2001, Gazette)

Psychology's "den mother"
happy to go, sad to leave

Bernice St. CroixPhoto by Chris Hammond

Bernice St. Croix

The images float the computer screen: a hammock swinging against an idyllic sunset…a perfect empty tropical beach…and then the words, “Retirement countdown: only 50 days until Bernice retires!”

The fact that a co-worker went to the effort of installing a special screensaver should tell you something about Bernice St. Croix, intermediate secretary in the Department of Psychology. Genuinely well-liked by everyone who meets her, the Grand Falls native has been a Memorial employee for over 20 years, and has maintained her friendships for the duration.

Ms. St. Croix began at MUN in 1972 in what was then the Geology Department, and quickly found a place among her co-workers.

“I thought at the time that was the best place in the world anybody could ever work,” she said. “They used to cook up salt meat dinners in the lab sometimes. What a crowd they were.”

Ms. St. Croix has also been popular with students. Returning to MUN in 1982 after her husband was transferred to Grand Bank and back again, she took up a position in Co-ordination, the predecessor to co-op.

“Everybody there was just exceptional, but it was one of the slowdown times,” she said. “Engineering students weren’t being placed really fast, and they’d come in and say, ‘Anything this morning?’ So I used to go home in the nighttime and try to figure out where I was going to get them a job; and then by this time I was thinking they were mine and I just had to get them to work.”

Her empathy did not go unnoticed, and when Ms. St. Croix made the move to the Psychology Department, she was literally followed into her new office by a florist carrying a bouquet from the engineering students.

Her seniors like her work, too. Ms. St. Croix has worked under four full-time department heads at the Psychology Department, and was described by the first of these, Jack Strawbridge, as “a den mother extraordinaire” who makes things work.

"She's also a proud mother to her own children, Chris and Cory, (both MUN grads), and gets a little emotional while telling about the momment from Cory's recent Admission to the Bar, when his older brother made a surprise trip home from Toronto, doubling his mother's pride in the day," said Dr. Strawbridge.

Curious by nature, Ms. St. Croix has enjoyed her opportunity within the university for continuous learning. “I thought maybe I’d get my degree in psychology since I was here,” she explained. “But after three courses, I was wiped out! I hadn’t been in school since 1957, and of course I had to get A’s or I wouldn’t be able to hold my head up around here.

“It’s so interesting working here because the psychologists have expertise in different areas, like neuroscience and animal behaviour. If you want to know something, just go to lunch in the lunchroom and you get all kinds of interesting information.”

Calling it ‘recycling’ instead of retiring, Ms. St. Croix has many plans for her future, including reading, gardening, golfing, cross-stitching, walking her 16-year old dog Ziggy, and perhaps travelling to Ireland next year. Primarily, however, she and her husband of 35 years, Ed (an employee at Facilities Management, who will also be retiring), will relocate to their cabin on the lake in Central Newfoundland, near Grand Falls, and spend much of the summer and fall remodelling in time for Christmas.

“Ed is fantastic at renovating,” Ms. St. Croix said, “and I do all the planning and picking out fabrics and colours.” She added, “When we finally do head to the old people’s home, they’ll be wheeling Ed out with a hammer still in his hand!”

Ms. St. Croix’s gift for working with people won’t be wasted, either. “I looked into volunteering,” she explained. “Grand Falls is just down the highway, so if I come up with a position as a mentor in high school, I think I’d like that.”

As for her opinion on how she achieved her success? Ms. St. Croix is unhesitant:

“You don’t stay working at the university for the salary. You have to like the atmosphere. And I love the atmosphere: you learn something every day.”

“They’ve heard me say over the years what a nice environment the Psychology Department is to work in,” she added. “I would say there’s going to be a lot of people applying for this job!”

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