James E. Cronin, history professor

Correction: The original version of Dr. Cronin’s obituary omitted a stepson and two grandchildren from the list of survivors.

James E. Cronin, a retired history professor at Montgomery College who served for eight years on the Montgomery County school board, died April 26 at his home in Silver Spring of complications from cancer. He was 69.

Dr. Cronin joined the Montgomery College faculty in 1970 and taught on the Rockville campus until his retirement in 2006. He served twice as chair of the history and political science department, from 1988 to 1992 and from 2002 to 2005.

He won several awards for his contributions to the school, including recognition for outstanding faculty performance in 2005.

He had a long career as a civic activist. In 1982, he was one of four liberal candidates for the county school board who swept the race, ousting a conservative majority.

Dr. Cronin served on the school board until 1990, including two terms as president. Before joining the board, he advised it on issues of racial and gender equity as a member of the county’s Human Relations Commission. He also served in the 1980s on what is now the county’s Committee on Hate/Violence.

His work on behalf of human rights was recognized with an award from the United Nations Association.

James Edward Cronin was born in Queens, N.Y. He studied five years at a Jesuit seminary, Bellarmine College in Plattsburgh, N.Y., but left before taking his final vows.

In 1966, he received a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University in the Bronx. He received a doctorate in history from New York University in 1973.

Dr. Cronin served as treasurer and president of the board of trustees of Hexagon, a nonprofit organization that raises money for charities by putting on an annual musical comedy revue.

He narrated the “Voices from the Tomb” documentary, produced in 2004 by Montgomery College Television, about guards at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns.

His marriages to Julie O’Neill and Andrea Fiddleman ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 20 years, Barbara Levine Cronin of Silver Spring; a daughter from his first marriage, Stephanie Cronin of New York; two stepchildren, Ilene Frank of Albany, N.Y. and Brian Frank of New Hartford, N.Y.; and two grandchildren.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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