Profile: Pokey Crocker '87, MA '5
As you walk in you might be surprised to find children driving a fire
truck, performing an operation or putting money in a bank safe. But scenes
like these come as no surprise to Pokey Crocker '87, MA '95,
the executive director of the Discovery Center of the Southern Tier.
Since 1989, Crocker has filled her days with fundraising, finger paints
and fun at the Discovery Center, a job that she describes as low stress,
and the key to keeping herself young.
A native of Binghamton, she came into the world on a rainy night. In fact,
her family was the last to cross the Washington Street Bridge before it
was closed due to flooding. She moved as a college sophomore to Kenyon
College to be with her new husband. Since Kenyon was a men's college,
she was unable to attend classes, but filled her days with meeting people,
performing and soaking up life in the college town.
She returned to Binghamton a new mother and a widow after losing her husband
in a tragic carbon monoxide accident, and her mother suggested that she
join the Junior League, a community-centered volunteer organization. Here
Crocker spent 20 years learning about volunteering. She also remarried
and continued building her family.
The docent program at the Roberson Center moved Crocker toward more scholarly
volunteer pursuits and she spent the next eight years as the volunteer
coordinator and the assistant director of education. These experiences
gave her the background and credentials she needed to take on the executive
director position at the Tioga County Council on the Arts in 1986.
Crocker loves to talk about how her positions helped her to build spirit
for the arts in the community, but it seems that all of these achievements
were all directed toward one purpose – one appointment that would
forever change the educational opportunities for children in the Southern
Crocker was asked to look at a new children's museum, the Discovery
Center. She offered to donate an hour of her time to review and comment
on the framework for the organizational plan. Although the exhibits centered
on a giant cardboard elephant in the middle of a large room, Crocker saw
the potential and stayed.
She became the executive director of the museum in March 1989 and continues
to pour her love and spirit into the museum to this day.
From the traveling dinosaur exhibit complete with robotic dinosaurs in
realistic habitats, to the airplane cockpit and to the bubble room, the
museum continues to grow and change, with the purpose to educate and delight
children of all ages.
And just when you think that she's done it all, Crocker comes up
with a new idea. In 2004 the Discovery Center presented the work of Jan
Brett in an oversized forum that allows children the experience of taking
part in a number of life-sized stories. This one-of-a-kind exhibit will
travel to other museums in 2006, but for now showcases the dedication
and ability of the Discovery Center staff.
Crocker's plate is always full. As she talks about the future of
the Discovery Center, her eyes shine brightly. As for retirement, she's
sure that it's coming, she's just not sure when. As long as
there are grants to write, ideas to explore and fun to be had, Pokey Crocker
will be there.
Where's the Beef?
Pokey Crocker knew something big was on the horizon when she received
a message to return early from vacation. She just didn't realize
An informal group of Southern Tier residents rallied together and
raised more than $8,000 to purchase the landmark black angus bull
from the former Vestal Steakhouse and Seafood Grill restaurant auction.
Upon receiving this generous donation, Pokey knew that the pasture
next to the Discovery Center front door would never be empty again.
With much support from community businesses such as Rogers Service
Group, Abby Crane, Lane Construction and Daniels Paint, artist Yvonne
Lucia transformed the formerly black bull into a smiling, friendly
addition to the museum.
If you're looking for the "beef," you can visit
Blossom at the Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, 60 Morgan
Road, in Binghamton.