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Week of September 3, 2013

Staff Spotlight

Financial specialist finds wisdom in staying positive

Erik Kreps, financial specialist senior with the Institute for Social Research’s Survey Research Center, warned wife Sandy to be cautious.

The Brighton couple already had four biological children ranging from 8 to 16. They also had two children, 5 and 7, adopted in the United States. Then on an adoption blog, Sandy spotted 3-year-old Darren, who lived in a Chinese orphanage.

Photo courtesy ISR.

He was 3, with short-cropped hair and a serious gaze. He also had heart defects that could kill him if he didn’t get the right operation. The couple found the average Chinese adoption runs $30,000. Paperwork requirements were crushing.

Fast forward to Darren Kreps holding up a small flowered purse stuffed with coins. “Mama! Too heavy!” he shouts, then tosses the purse into the air. Just months earlier, doctors operated to correct a jumble of heart defects. Now, Darren looks healthy and speaks English in complete sentences. When the purse hits the ground with an explosion of coins, Darren looks surprised, then cracks up laughing.

That sense of humor is something he shares with his new dad.

Erik Kreps recalls the days when he played on alma matter Concordia University’s losing basketball squad. “We had a relentlessly positive coach. After one season he offered this encouragement: ‘Let me tell you something, you guys might just be 2-26, but you’re the best 2-26 team I’ve ever been associated with!’”

While Kreps still laughs about that, there’s a lesson that lingers. “In virtually any situation we can find something to complain about and something to be grateful for — which are we going to choose?” he says.

After working for a spell at Borders Group headquarters, Kreps joined the Survey Research Center as an accountant in February 2001. Among roles at the SRC, he served six years on the Director’s Advisory Committee on Diversity. He recalls a quote from Bob Groves, former SRC director and director of the U.S. Census Bureau: “Diversity is our life’s blood.” He was speaking of the SRC and the field of social science, Kreps recalls. “As an organization that attempts to inform society about itself, an important way to achieve that is by striving for a culture of diversity internally that’s reflective of the world around us,” Kreps says.

Kreps supports the center’s efforts through analyzing, monitoring and reporting on accounting and budget activity. He finds job satisfaction through interaction with his co-workers. “The institute is full of kind, interesting, and wonderful people, and it’s a pleasure to know them,” he says.

On occasion, Kreps exercises his sense of humor by drawing cartoons to illustrate stories on ISR research findings for publications, “possibly because accountants are widely renowned for their slick humor and wild living,” he jokes. Kreps even did one for the Michigan Retirement Research Center: “I’m not sure it turned out all that humorous, but it did have to be authorized by the Social Security Administration, so I got the biggest kick out of having a cartoon that was federally approved.”

Kreps says his job and career goal is “To keep trying to get better and better at serving the people I’m blessed to share the days with.”

In days and months to come, Darren will need more surgeries to fully recover from his heart issues. He pulls up his shirt to reveal a chest scar, and when someone says “hen piaoliang” — Chinese for “very pretty” — he laughs loudly. For now, he is off all medications.

“We can’t get enough of his laughing,” Sandy Kreps says. “It’s so good for the heart.”

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at

Posted by Jim Kraai | Sep 10, 2013
What a wonderful story of a family sharing their love and resources for those less fortunate.

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Erik Kreps, financial specialist senior, Institute for Social Research, on remaining positive: “In virtually any situation we can find something to complain about and something to be grateful for — which are we going to choose?”


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