Ironically, when Martina (Casa) Fronczek was a senior in high school, she had no idea she would be going to college for 38 years. She wanted to take the summer after graduation off and have fun, then get a job and start working in the fall, which would afford her the ability to travel. Fronczek, who was hired at Carroll at age 17 as a receptionist in the business office, has spent the almost 40 years working for the University.
“When I interviewed, I wore my ninth grade Easter outfit,” she says. “Then when I was hired, some people thought I was too young for the job because it involved handling complaints.”
An administrative assistant for the facilities department, Fronczek has heard it all throughout the years. The most memorable complaint came from a neighbor who called several times because the snow piled up in front of campus was dirty.
“People bring us their problems, and it’s our job to solve them,” she says. “We’re all about customer service.”
After Fronczek started working, she took classes for a while and achieved sophomore status. She had the time of her life being in plays in the Marinello Little Theatre and a long-gone fun event called “Stunt Night,” dancing at mixers, attending concerts, football games, and traveling to Sicily on an alumni trip with her friends. She also had the honor of being one of a handful of females inducted as an honorary member of the Iota Chi Upsilon fraternity.
“I was always so proud of being an IXY,” she says. “I look forward to seeing my old buddies return for Alumni Weekend every year.”
As the friends Fronczek made started graduating, she thought of leaving Carroll and even went so far as interviewing with a few law offices and corporations in downtown Cleveland but found them to be too boring and not nearly as much fun as working on a college campus.
To this day, she follows the philosophy of John Reali ’58, her former boss and vice president for services: Get your job done but have a good time doing it. Fronczek worked for Reali for 25 years and still jokes she has been with him longer than her husband.
Fronczek, who was one of two staff members presented with a Centennial Medal by former president Fr. Thomas O’Malley in 1986, remembers other fun: “We’d always play April Fool’s Day jokes on one another. One of my co-workers, Gina Butler ’77, even had my big ’77 firethorn metallic Monte Carlo moved onto the front lawn of the School of Business.”
About Martina Fronczek
– Is 100 percent Sicilian
– Grew up in Maple Heights, Ohio
– Is very grateful to still have both of her parents
– Favorite color is purple
– Loves traveling
– Enjoys being the social coordinator for most of her friends’ get-togethers
– Loves working out at Bally’s, Fitworks, and JCU Fitness Classes
– Loves to dance, listen to music, and line dance with the JCU girls
– Is a member of the Silver Circle as a result of serving the University for 25 years or more
– Likes to be known by one name and one name only, like Cher.
One of Fronczek’s business-office duties was delivering paychecks to the various departments on campus. Around Halloween, she’d put the checks in a trick-or-treat bag and collected treats along the way while handing out the paychecks. Once the University switched to direct deposit, the trips ended, except for on Halloween when she recruited friends to trick-or-treat.
“We’ve had such great costumes over the years – the Village People; our version of the Spice Girls: Basil, Oregano, Garlic, and Parsley; and office goddesses Stressa, Faxus, Caffeina, Computa, and Phonia,” she says. “Trick-or-treating brightened up everyone’s day and became a tradition. Offices would call us asking when we were coming around and not to forget stopping by their area.”
Martina met her husband, Andrew, at Carroll in 1987. Andrew is director of purchasing and auxiliary services for the University. He’s also a nationally certified flooring inspector and avid soccer player. In 1987, he was working at Carroll as a flooring contractor.
Jerry Custer, director of physical plant at that time, told Martina there was a guy on campus who wanted to meet her. But it wasn’t true. Then he told Andrew his secretary wanted to meet him. That wasn’t true either. Andrew walked into her office – and life – the first week of the fall semester, when things are most hectic. They started dating in September, and Andrew proposed during Martina’s lunch hour in the president’s office conference room the following January with her friends – Audrey Bloom, Ida Frate, and Diane Ward – by her side.
Celebrities have breezed on and off campus throughout the years. Martina was thrilled to work for commencement in ’76 when Bob Hope was the commencement speaker. She also was humbled to meet Mother Teresa during her visit in ’78. Another great memory was shaking the hand of former President Bill Clinton, who was visiting Carroll because City Year, a youth service group he was involved with, was on campus for a convention.
Martina, who doesn’t believe in retirement, wants to continue working at John Carroll for the foreseeable future. She calls Ethel Epstein, a secretary who retired from the University at age 85, her little idol, and cites her father, who was still working until recently, at age 86.
“I’m blessed to have spent so many memorable years at JCU,” she says. “The community always has been so caring and supportive. This is still a wonderful place to be. If I didn’t work at Carroll, I’d love to open up a charm school to teach people proper etiquette and manners. Either that or work at a doggie day care, another dream job of mine.”
– John Walsh