Penn State Intercom......May 9, 2002

After 29 years as a student,
Craig has her doctorate

By Gary Cramer
Public Information

When Susan C. Craig receives her doctoral degree in administration of justice on May 11, she will do so not just with the satisfaction of graduating from Penn State at the same time as her youngest child, but also with the priceless joy of not getting another tuition bill for herself for the first time since 1973.

Craig, 57, is program chair of Kaplan College's Online School of Criminal Justice in Boca Raton, Fla. She said she has been continuously enrolled at Penn State for what could be a record-breaking 29 years. Along the way to her doctoral degree, she worked in a handful of University offices, raised five children who all attended the University and earned her associate's degree in letters, arts and sciences in 1982; bachelor's degree in individual and family studies in 1987; and master's degree in counselor edducation in 1991.

"I want to say 'thank you' to Penn State and to the many who encouraged me along the way," Craig recently wrote to President Graham B. Spanier. "A staff member of the Registrar's Office told me in 1992 that I had the longest record of continuous enrollment back then. Since I have remained enrolled, I have to assume that I still hold the record. However, I am pleased that I will not be paying tuition after Spring 2002, more so than holding this record."

Some 10 years before beginning her affiliation with Penn State, Craig, a native of Indiana, Pa., and the youngest of six children, studied business at Robert Morris College, in suburban Pittsburgh, but did not earn a degree there. Her father was judge of Indiana County for 20 years, which she said led to her interest in the criminal justice system, as well as chances to "play" in the courtroom.

She first registered for a pilot project Penn State Distance Education course that was delivered by computer in 1973, and went on to complete 21 credits through Distance Education. At the time, she and her first husband, now deceased, owned and managed the Craig Motel on U.S. Route 220 in Centre County. Later, she became a full-time University staff member and enrolled as a part-time student.

"My goal was to provide my children with an education," she said of the 17 years that she worked for University offices in the College of Health and Human Development, College of Engineering, Student Aid, Graduate School, Center for Academic Computing and College of the Liberal Arts. "My eldest became a freshman in 1982. My youngest, Chad, will graduate the same day as I do with a bachelor's degree in psychology, and that will make three of my children who ended up earning a degree from here. Chad starts medical school in the fall. It is very exciting to me for us to graduate together, as it ends an era for me."

Besides her youngest, she expects at least two of her other children and a handful of other family members to see her cross the Rec Hall stage on May 11.

Craig's research for her dissertation focused on women in prison. The co-chairs for her dissertation committee were Alan Block professor of Jewish studies and of crime, law and justice; and John Kramer, professor of sociology and crime, law and justice. During her studies, she spent a year working at a State Correctional Institution in order to learn more about the family dynamics of women in prison; what happens to their children on the outside; and the administrative structures of prisons.

"She really exemplifies the notion of education and its place in work-force development, and the concept of lifetime learning," said Eva J. Pell, vice president for research and dean of The Graduate School. "Clearly, by being a student for so many years, her education was a constant benefit to the many positions she has held."

Among other experiences, Craig also has been a census taker, management information systems coordinator for Women in Distress of Broward County Inc., in Florida, an instructor for classes in Penn State's Administration of Justice program from 1995 to 1998, and holder of various counseling, consultant and volunteer positions with the University and Pennsylvania prisons.

"Now I enjoy encouraging other adults to go back to school if they want to -- to let them know it is possible," she said.

Penn State University Park will hold commencement ceremonies for approximately 6,222 associate, baccalaureate and graduate degree students the weekend of May 10-11. The Graduate School ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. May 11 in Rec Hall for approximately 729 master's, and 226 doctoral degree students. Systemwide, Penn State expects 8,931 students to graduate from its 24 locations.

Gary Cramer can be reached at