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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Exec Sec’s Crone Retires After 42 Years

Crone sits at her office desk, surrounded by family photos.

Colleen Crone ends her NIH career after 42 years.

Photo: Dana Talesnik

Colleen Crone, a program analyst for OD’s Executive Secretariat, will retire this spring following a 42-year NIH career. 

A proud employee since the day she arrived, Crone started working at NIH as a GS-5 typist in the Clinical Center’s diagnostic radiology department in January 1978, shortly after receiving her associate’s degree.

“In a sense, I grew up here at NIH,” she said. “I’d grown up in Frederick County and had always heard about people getting treated at NIH. It was always considered the Emerald City of medical research.”

Crone went on to spend 4 rewarding years working for Dr. Michael Zasloff in NICHD’s Human Genetics Branch. As a small-town girl, she especially looked forward to the lab holiday parties where she got a taste of different international foods and cultures. 

In the first half of her NIH career, Crone also worked for NHLBI director Dr. Claude Lenfant and NEI scientific director Dr. Robert Nussenblatt.

“There’s no question why they call this the crown jewel of the federal government,” said Crone. “Wonderful, amazing things go on here.”

Some of Crone’s fondest NIH memories occurred during her 9 years working for Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research. She excitedly recounted meeting presidents, senators and celebrities and chatting on a first-name basis with Nobel laureates who frequented the office. 

“I was often in awe of all the brain power in the meetings I attended,” said Crone. 

“Colleen had a ‘can do’ attitude about all of her work,” said Gottesman.“ As my executive assistant, she was frequently called upon to deal with an unexpected or unfamiliar problem, and she always found her way to a desirable solution.”

For the past 12 years, Crone has worked for Exec Sec, the OD office that manages official correspondence and provides a range of other support to the NIH director and principal deputy director.

In her office, surrounded by files and family photos, next to an overstuffed day planner, sat a pink folder. One of her most fulfilling duties at Exec Sec, Crone said, is processing these “pink packages”—the awards and promotion packets for scientists and senior staff. Crone has always relished her support role, from typing articles and searching for information to managing her supervisor’s calendar. 

“I first met Colleen several years before I came to NIH at monthly meetings of the Council of Federal Executive Secretariats,” said Crone’s supervisor, Patrice Allen-Gifford. “Colleen wasn’t just capable and helpful; her lively presence brightened those meetings. Five years later, when I became director of NIH Exec Sec, it was a joy to reconnect with Colleen. She is dedicated, thoughtful, caring—and fun!” 

Crone recollected taking her sons, and later her grandsons, to Take Your Child to Work Day each year. She was planning to retire a little sooner but chose to stay through April so her grandsons could have one more TYCTWD experience [an event since canceled by the coronavirus pandemic] with her.

“I never expected to be retiring,” said Crone. “I’m relatively healthy, I enjoy my work, I love my co-workers.” 

Her motivation? Crone is eager to spend more time with her two grandsons, Joel, 10 and JD, 7.  She looks forward to taking the “Granny Cooper”—as her grandsons call her Mini Cooper—on frequent family road trips to Ocean City.

Crone also looks forward to having more time to go hiking and backpacking. She lives down the road from the Appalachian Trail and, has, in fact, hiked all 41 miles of it in Maryland. 

“Coupled with her consummate professionalism, Colleen’s spunk and stories about her ‘munchkins’ (grandkids) inspire easy laughter,” said Allen-Gifford. “Most importantly, Colleen has deeply rooted admiration for the NIH family and mission, which drives her unwavering commitment. I will miss her. We all will miss her.”  

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