Spartan Proud: Living a passion for theatre.

April 3, 2017

mcc_croff_1Spartan Proud: Living a passion for theatre.

#SpartanProud #MCCSchools.

Spartan Proud is sponsored by Mason County Central Schools. This series features alumni of Mason County Central telling their stories. Today I have the honor of telling the story of my fellow classmate Jeff Croff.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LANSING — Jeff Croff graduated from Mason County Central in 1988 certain his future was already mapped out. “I was confident it would culminate in becoming a psychotherapist who wrote the great American novel on the side,” he says.

“After working for West Shore Community Mental Health, CEI Community Mental Health and Lutheran Social Services, while attending college, I realized that I needed a greater emphasis on the writing and communicating side of things to be happy. From there I modified my major  and created a degree utilizing my psychology background and bolstered the English portion of things.”

He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Michigan State University, majoring in interdisciplinary humanities.

“But because of the type of degree it was, I needed a third leg for my educational stool and that is when a simple statement by a professor transformed both my degree and much of my future. He suggested, while shattering my still overdeveloped ego, that I couldn’t write for theatre without participating in it.  I was confident he was wrong, but I still needed more credits. So I took my first of many theatre classes. Prior to that my only exposure to theatre had been watching the annual MCC productions.

“The addition of theatre to my life not only helped me finally round out a degree and graduate, it helped me to build a passion that fills my evenings while I work in communications and marketing during the day. I started out out of college as a communications specialist and advanced over the years to vice president of marketing for a $150 million credit union. During those same years, I’ve gotten involved with a number of theatre groups, including founding two.  I’ve appeared on stage and in commercials a number of times, but my true joy has been directing. I’ve directed over 40 productions.”

Jeff’s “day job” is assisting researchers with grant development and coordinating a speakers series at Michigan State. His passion, though, is Ixion Ensemble, the small independent theatre group in which he serves as artistic director and board president. The group performs primarily in Lansing but has taken shows on the road to Indianapolis and Jeff’s home town of Ludington.

Like many graduates of Mason County Central, Jeff speaks fondly of legendary teacher O’Neil “Boots” Newkirk, who retired from the school while Jeff was attending high school.

“While he was a bit brusque, he was also one of the first teachers I remember who emphasized passion and style. His areas of emphasis project forced everyone to look at topics they wanted to explore rather than simply listening to a lecture.

Jeff was also part of the MCC boys track team that won the state championship in 1986.

“Another person who always stands out when I think of my time at MCC, is Coach Bruce Krieger. As my track coach, Mr. Krieger always pushed hard work and preparation. Two things that continue to serve me well today.

“At MCC, the teachers and the administration always seemed ready to encourage any idea or pursuit. Whether it was creating the Quiz Bowl or Odyssey of the Mind teams or simply encouraging us as students to explore, they encouraged me to think of possibilities and not just realities.”

Jeff still has family in Mason County and tries to visit as often as he can, but he now calls Lansing home. The decision to move away was basically a result of applying himself to his adopted college home, he says. “Because I worked my way through college, I developed my network of referrals and contacts for future jobs here and began advancing my career through that network. I also developed a group of friends with shared interests and Lansing became more and more like home.

“I try to return to Mason County as often as time allows. I’ve still got family in the area and of course there is no more beautiful place to be in the summer.”

Jeff’s wife, Sadonna, shares his passion for theatre and coordinates a youth theatre program during the summer.

“Between she and I we have a blended family of seven children: six girls and one boy, ranging in age from 12-29. We do an annual fundraiser in memory of my daughter Victoria to buy presents for children in foster care. My oldest, Alex is going to be marrying her high school sweetheart after she graduates from MSU this May with a degree in chemical physics.

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