Daniel Cronk

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Daniel Cronk

Last year, systems administrator Daniel Cronk was dispatched to Kosovo on a special assignment. The vet school at the University of Pristina was setting up a clinical radiology lab, and had reached out to the University of Minnesota, asking for assistance. Cronk spent two weeks teaching staff and students how to use the equipment and troubleshoot malfunctions.

“I got to work with students one day, and seeing how excited they got was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he says.

From the start, Veterinary Medical Center (VMC) administrators knew Cronk was the perfect pick for such an assignment. A 17-year employee at the U, Cronk is an advanced imaging tech, performing MRIs, CT scans, and nuclear medicine procedures. He also manages the VMC’s radiation-therapy and PACS (picture archiving and communication system) technologies. The latter lets clinicians access patient medical information and images from anywhere in the world, allowing experts around the world to collaborate and solve problems without leaving home.

Dan Cronk on Easter Island in 2012.Dan Cronk visited Easter Island in 2012.

But Cronk was also uniquely qualified in another way: He has traveled far and wide—at last count, he had visited 53 countries. He has hiked the highlands of Burma, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, and gone paragliding in Turkey. Inspired by a middle school teacher who regaled her students with tales of her global adventures, Cronk embarked on his first solo trip—to Venezuela—a month after 9/11. He was 21, and had recently begun working at the U of M. Career was important to him, but the trip made him rethink his priorities.

“I began to think there’s more to life than education and career,” he says.

Dan Cronk on Mt. KilimanjaroMission accomplished: Dan Cronk climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2015, stopping for a photo at Uhuru Peak.

Nowadays, travel is Cronk’s priority. He uses his vacation time almost exclusively for excursions—flying to Easter Island or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—and documents his trips with photos he posts on a personal website.

“Everyone at the college knows me as a traveler,” he says with a laugh. Faculty and staff he barely knows have stopped him in the hallways to ask about his latest jaunt or his next destination.

Has Cronk ever thought of moving elsewhere or living abroad? Not really, he says. Minnesota remains home.

“I enjoy what I do and the people I work with,” he says. “I think Minnesota is a relatively nice place to live.”