Dr. Bob Kronick: Mentor, friend, change agent

Susan EspirituWest Knoxville

There have been many people to impact me professionally, but none more than Dr. Bob Kronick, professor emeritus, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who inspired me among many others to transform the school delivery model from the normal into the transformational.

I worked with Dr. Kronick on the community schools’ model as a tagalong to Dr. Elisa Luna, the ultimate unconventional leader who wasn’t afraid to think outside of the box and push the boundaries of traditional educational design. I was learning from her expertise when she was tragically shot by her own staff member on February 10, 2010.

Her influence affected all who knew her and Dr. Kronick says hers was a lasting influence on him.

He says: “Dr. Elisa Luna. I was her doctoral advisor, colleague and friend. Her dissertation sits on a table in my home. As a scholar, she was one of the best I ever worked with. We gave a paper together in Portland, Oregon. The audience loved her. As a principal, she was outstanding. She took students home from school and they warned her not to continue on as she wasn’t safe. Students and staff described her as the perfect example of brilliance and empathy. In 2010, Dr. Luna was shot by a fourth grade teacher. She has been paralyzed ever since. I was in touch with her until June 2023. A beautiful person was lost to mankind because of gun violence. I wish there was a happy ending to this but there is not.”

This tragedy strengthened my relationship with Dr. Kronick who became Dr. K to me, because I took over the community schools mantle that Elisa had been carrying and my Pond Gap Elementary school became the first complete model in Tennessee.

“Don’t sit on the bench. Get involved. Life is not a spectator sport.” Bob Kronick

Bob Kronick comes from a what he calls a dynamic, hardworking family with parents married for 50 years. His work with the impoverished could stem from his own childhood as his family had economic challenges, but he credits them for his family’s closeness.

Dr. K has college degrees from the University of Florida, Appalachian State University and the University of Tennessee, teaching 49 years at the University of Tennessee with his main advice to students being, “If you are the same person at the end of the semester as you were at the beginning, get your money back.”

Dr. K embodies another of his favorite quotes, this one from Ty Cobb You can’t steal second base with both your feet on first.

Not only did he teach at the university level for more than half his lifetime, but Dr. K learned the importance of how to enter a system different from his own and he always looked for the best in people. These systems include prisons, psychiatric hospitals, pre-k-12 schools and his last program was a rural community school in Morgan County, at the request of Randy Boyd, president of the University of Tennessee. As a visitor in this school, I witnessed the successful mentorship the community school was offering staff, parents and students.

As with anything pushing against the system in place, Kronick says getting community schools started was always a challenge that took tenacity to overcome. Teachers, students and families were allies, decision-makers were the challenge.

Dr. K in one of many community schools discussions

Dr. Kronick has worked tirelessly developing relationships across universities and his profession to better the educational environment. Over the last 15 years he has worked and published with some of these: the Netter Center at The University of Pennsylvania, Sunythe University at Buffalo, Cincinnati Community Centers, Children’s Aid, University of Wisconsin, Joy Dryfoos Independent Community Centers at the University of Virginia, and Lastinger Center at the University of Florida.

Darlene Kamise of Cincinnati said that Dr. Kronick was the only academic she would work with because he knows how to get things done.

He’s always had a good relationship with President Randy Boyd who funded our program at Pond Gap and was the voice behind the Morgan County school’s program. Dr. Jennifer Tourville, executive director of UT’s opioid programs, and Kronick have a strong relationship as well. Dr. Kronick says he doesn’t back away from much and he is a good listener to be able to accomplish much.

Robert F. Kronick Ph.D.

There have been significant milestones in his 80 years. He claims four of major note. Being at the birth of his son and raising his step-daughter. They are close and all went to Florida on his 80th birthday. Dr. K was recognized by the University of Tennessee for scholarship, teaching and service and was given the first cash award for the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. He was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. award by the NAACP.

You would think balance would be an issue for someone as passionate about systems as Dr. Kronick, but his children and family always come first. He did not travel out of the state until his youngest turned 5. He says balancing family and work has not been stressful for him.

He has future plan besides improving his tennis backhand, visiting with friends, staying involved in politics, being on a mayor’s committee on violence reduction, and seeing his children in Kentucky and Alaska. He is writing a book on gun violence and working with a college in Buffalo.

One final quote and bit of advice from Dr. Robert Kronick, my mentor and friend, “My mother said this when I left home for the University of Florida as a freshman, ‘You are going in one direction and the parade is going in the other.’ Listen to your mother.”

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to susan@knoxtntoday.com


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