Catching up with Jean Croce ’94 MacKenzie Riley Young | April 2, 2021

By Larry Davis ’70, ’74, M.S. ’78 

In late 1970, I was managing a new pub in Waterville called You Know Whose Pub when a young couple, Jean Poirier and Billy Croce, came in for drinks and food. They were very much in love, full of fun, and we hit it off immediately. Jean was a medical secretary, and Billy managed Peter Webber’s Ski Shop two doors down from the pub. They were expert skiers, both having learned to ski before age five. They became regulars at the pub, and we shared many laughs.

Jean grew up in Waterville, graduating as an honor roll student from Waterville High School in 1967. She wanted to become a dentist like her father; but with five siblings, that track seemed out of reach financially, so a more modest approach was taken. She attended Cardinal Cushing College, graduated with an AS degree as a medical secretary, and worked at Children’s Hospital in Boston in Pathology and Ophthalmology. After working a year, at age 21, Jean and a coworker friend bought one-way tickets to England, setting out to hitchhike across Europe with $200 each.

In England, they met up with a popular Waterville High School exchange student, Bob Wiles, fondly nicknamed “Crumpet,” who also attended Thomas and was a star soccer player. Jean and her friend stayed for two weeks with Crumpet and his parents and had a ball. They then hitchhiked through Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, and Spain, and visited a Norwegian exchange student whom Jean’s parents had hosted. Jean and her friend loved every minute of their adventure.

Back home, Jean worked as a medical secretary, and later, she and Bill married. In 1985 she took a position as Executive Secretary for Paul Jensen, Thomas College’s then President. Jean worked for several Presidents: Cy Joly, Dave Emery, George Spann, and Laurie Lachance M.B.A. ’92. She credits Dr. Spann with saving and growing the College when many small schools were disappearing from the scene, and credits President Lachance with putting Thomas on a fast growth track.

Nine years after starting her Thomas degree, Jean completed her BS in Management, all while working full time and supporting her two children, Lisa and Tim. She retired in 2014, and she and Bill cruised the Maine coast each summer, sailing to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Saint Augustine, Florida, for the winters until Bill sadly passed away in 2018. While the pandemic has kept Jean at home more recently, she stays connected to her many friends.

Looking back, Jean still loves Thomas students and their ability to work hard in school and at their jobs. She is very aware of the family atmosphere at Thomas and how much the professors and staff care about the students and their success. She was always amazed at the growth of students while attending Thomas.

*This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of the Thomas magazine. View the full magazine here.