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February 26, 2001

Family Ties

By Eric Rangus

Just as Melanie Murphy is sincerely expressing how much she enjoys her job as office coordinator for information services at the School of Public Health, Big Sister laughs.

Not just a giggle. Not just a chortle. A full-fledged roar. One only an older sibling needling the baby of the family could provide.

Here’s how it went:

“I love working here,” says Murphy, who is on her second tour of duty at the University. She worked in pediatrics between 1993 and 1996, then returned to Emory in 1998 at her current job at the School of Public Health.

“I used to make fun of people who were here 10, 20 years,” she continued. “But after I came back, I see why people stay. You really become a family. The learning environment is great, there are so many opportunities—”

“Okay, Dorothy!” Donna Crabb breaks in. As background to this conversation, the faint melody of

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” can be heard from Cox Hall bell tower above them.

“That’s the perfect background to what you’re saying. ‘It’s all about family and home,’ and they’replaying ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’” Crabb muses.

“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like Emory,” she says in her best Judy Garland voice.

In response, Jennifer Crabb—Donna’s daughter, a 2000 Emory College graduate and employee at the Association of Emory Alumni—almost falls out of her chair, doubled over in laughter. A pretty upbeat person in general, Jennifer is nearing a coronary at this point.

For those observing the conversation, it is truly a hilarious moment. It is also a perfect example of the busyness of modern life and that the struggle to balance work with family time doesn’t have to weaken those family bonds.

Of course, it also helps if the whole family works at the same place.

“These are my best friends,” Jennifer says. “I love my mom and I love my aunt; I do everything with them.”

When she was an Emory student, Jennifer would meet her mom and aunt for lunch every week. That pattern remained after she was hired. As a girl, Jennifer, a severe asthmatic, would see Melanie all the time when she worked in pediatrics.

And the family’s relationship with the University runs even deeper than this trio.

“As long as I can remember, from when I was a little girl, I came to work with my grandmother,” Jennifer says. Her grandmother, Ruth Crabb, worked at Emory Hospital until 1995, when she went on disability. “I came to work with her, and I drew pictures for her. Then my mom came to work at Emory. And then in 1996, I applied to Oxford College.” She graduated from Oxford in 1998, then moved on to Emory, where she earned a degree in international affairs with a minor in Japanese studies.

There’s a whole new generation on the way, too. Melanie has two high-school-age children (16-year-old Derrick and 15-year-old Kimberly), and Jennifer is mother to 1-year-old Jasmine.

It was Emory’s Courtesy Scholarship program that allowed Jennifer to attend and graduate from the University.

“When I came here, I had no intention of staying,” Donna says. Prior to coming to Emory in 1990, she had been working on her own as a technology specialist. “From eighth grade, [Jennifer] was talking about being a lawyer. So, I thought, ‘I’d better stay here.’ I don’t know how else I could’ve given her a $100,000 education.”

But it’s not like Jennifer was forced to matriculate. Oxford was, in fact, the only place she applied.

And she still intends to go to law school. She takes the LSAT this summer and hopes to enroll in the part-time program at Georgia State (so she can keep her job) in Fall 2002.

“I promised myself that when [Jennifer] graduated, I was going to walk down the aisle with her and keep on walking,” Donna says. “But I started working in employment in 1998, and we’ve been doing a lot of great things.”

For instance, Donna developed and manages HR’s CA$H program, which pays $250 to Emory employees who refer qualified candidates for open Emory positions. She also developed HR’s current plan for temporary staffing.

In fact, when Melanie returned to Emory for her second tour of duty, she started in her sister’s temporary pool. She began in the Department of International Health in the School of Public Health, moved over to the admissions office in the School of Medicine, then went back to public health in information services, where she lasted two weeks before she was offered a full-time position.

“I pull great-quality people [to fill temp jobs], and offices usually keep them,” laughs Donna, who is four years Murphy’s senior.

This work—along with four years of experience working in orientation, meeting nearly every new employee walking through Emory’s doors—has kept Donna’s profile rather high on campus.

“Since I’ve been here,” Murphy says, “I’ve had so many people call me and say, ‘Can you get my resume to your sister?’ There’s so much pressure!”

Things may be changing, however. The torch is about to be passed.

“Ever since she first came to campus,” Donna says, motioning toward her daughter, “she’s been known as ‘Donna Crabb’s daughter.’ We worked the Reconciliation Symposium, and all of a sudden I’m being called ‘Jennifer Crabb’s mother.’”

In less than a year as registrar at the Association of Emory Alumni, Jennifer is quickly establishing her presence. She sits on the Young Alumni Committee. She is treasurer of the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni, and she works to bring the main campus closer together with Oxford.

Her current project is to take Emory sophomores to the Oxford campus to give its students a scouting report of what to expect when they come to Atlanta as juniors.

“I want to try and bridge the gap and ease the transition.” she says.

“You should ask her what she wants to be,” Donna says. Her daughter, who has her answer ready before a question can be uttered says: “My ultimate goal is to be the dean of Oxford College.”
But would current Dean Dana Greene have a problem with that?

“She’s my friend,” Jennifer says. “She gave me a holiday card, and she signed it herself. She knows me by name!”


Back to Emory Report Feb. 26, 2001