The Long View
When Patrick Stokes ’64 first stepped onto the Boston College campus as an undergraduate student in 1961, there were only a handful of residence halls on campus. McElroy Commons was the newest building. Carney Hall didn’t exist. Neither did Higgins Hall, nor Robsham Theater Arts Center, nor the Brighton campus. But by 1964, when he graduated, Pat had begun to see rapid change on the horizon with the opening of three residence halls—Roncalli, Williams, and Walsh—to accommodate the growing number of students who needed to live at the Heights.
“Boston College was considered a commuter school back then,” says Pat Stokes. “And now students come from across the country and all over the world,” he continues. “We have some of the top programs, and we are recognized throughout the United States.”
Pat has been an integral part of the University’s transformation since those early days. And now, Pat and his wife, Anna-Kristina “Aja” Stokes, P’91, ’94, ’97, are giving $25 million to Boston College to support undergraduates who want nothing more than to study at the University. Named the Stokes Family Endowed Scholarship, the fund will provide life-changing aid to a select group of freshmen and sophomores who will be known as “Stokes Scholars” until their graduation from BC.
Shaping the Heights
For 60 years, the Stokes family has given generously to Boston College, in honor of their love for BC and their belief in its Jesuit education. They’ve supported the University in a variety of ways over the years, including generously providing the lead gift for Stokes Hall, establishing an endowed scholarship fund, and contributing annually to Pops on the Heights: the Barbara and Jim Cleary Scholarship Gala.
There is a point in your life when you realize that helping others is a responsibility—when you realize that the resources you have can be put to a better use. Boston College has helped both of us understand that contributing to education—through financial aid—is one of the best ways to reduce inequality and enable deserving young people to fulfill their potential.”
PAT STOKES ’64
Pat, a former president and CEO of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., has served on BC’s Board of Trustees for decades, both as chairman and as a member of numerous Board committees. He has led the Heights through significant cultural change, presidential transitions, and physical development. In fact, it was during Pat’s tenure as chairman of the Board that Boston College acquired the Brighton campus. “The ability to buy nearly 70 acres of land adjacent to the campus that was already straining under the burden of construction was just phenomenal,” he says. “We knew we had to acquire this land because it really was the future for the University. It was the 100-year view of what BC could become and what capability it had to grow into,” Pat continues. “And now we are realizing how good a decision it was, with the playing fields and the McMullen Museum on the Brighton campus—and room to expand and renovate on the main campus.” In 2010, BC awarded Pat the James F. Cleary ’50, Hon’93, Masters Award, an honor reserved for a volunteer whose ideas, energy, and leadership have elevated fundraising at the University to “new levels of excellence.”
Now Pat and Aja are helping to lead the University through another critical point in history: addressing the increasing need for financial aid.
Swipe between the two images below to see the “before” and “after” of Stokes Hall
The growing need
It’s no secret that the need has steadily deepened over time, as BC undergraduates will receive financial aid totaling $146.9 million, up from $141.2 million in FY20.
Boston College remains one of only 20 private colleges and universities in the United States that practice need-blind admission and meet full demonstrated need for accepted students. This policy provides all qualified students who meet BC’s high academic standards the access to an education at the Heights.
The average need-based financial aid package is more than $40,000 per academic year. Although a significant sum, it covers only about half of what’s required for tuition, room and board, and fees per year.
“I am so proud of BC’s need-blind admission,” says Pat. “But the gap between those who do not have the financial resources to pay the full room, board, and tuition, and those who can, is real. So what can we do?” he asks. “What it really comes down to is helping the students without these financial resources through endowed scholarships.”
The Growing Need for Financial Aid at Boston College
Undergraduate financial aid budgeted annually for the past 10 years in millions:
The Path to Boston College
Pat didn’t begin his relationship with Boston College the way most of his classmates did. In fact, a liberal arts education was far from his original plan.
After completing a traditional Catholic education through the eighth grade, Pat attended Xavier High School, an independent Jesuit institution, in New York City. The curriculum at Xavier included training of a different sort: Junior ROTC units. It was one of only a handful of Jesuit high schools at the time that offered military science and training along with the traditional courses in Latin, theology, and classics.
“It was a distinctly different school,” Pat says, recalling their weekly military drills. He still remembers wearing the ROTC uniform on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and dress blues on Mondays and Fridays. Getting to and from school every day added to the adventure. “We were subway commandos,” says Pat. “Traveling on a New York City subway in uniform for four years is a formative experience.”
Along with academics and hard work, Xavier also taught him the importance of giving back to the community in a variety of ways. For example, every year, Xavier students marched in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day parades.
In the late 1950s, many Americans were caught up in the excitement of the “Space Race”—including Pat, who was a senior at Xavier. And he had a plan. “We were strongly encouraged to attend a Jesuit college or university for further education,” he says. “At that time, everybody wanted to be an engineer because President Kennedy said we needed to put a man on the moon. Engineering, mathematics, and the sciences were the way to do it.” Pat was accepted to the engineering program at the University of Detroit (now named University of Detroit Mercy).
But once enrolled, he quickly realized that he didn’t want to be an engineer. “I liked the quantitative side of my course of study, but not the engineering side,” Pat remembers. Without wasting any time, he transferred to Boston College at the end of his freshman year. He knew a few friends from high school were there, and he was excited to study the humanities.
When Pat arrived on Upper Campus, he lived with a roommate in one of eight rooms in St. Joseph’s Hall. The now-demolished former mansion included a few unusual features. “It had leather-covered walls that were painted green,” Pat recalls. “The whole house was in a bit of disrepair. I remember how cold the house was in winter,” he reflects. “Each room had built-in dressers. One morning I opened my drawer—and there was snow in the back of it!”
Pat graduated from the Heights with a double major in English and mathematics.
View Stokes Hall and the Dustbowl
View Stokes Hall and the Dustbowl
Investing in future men and women for others
When Aja and Pat committed to building Stokes Hall about a decade ago, they ensured it would be a building devoted to the humanities, a crucial element of the liberal arts—the foundation of a Jesuit education. Opened in 2013, Stokes Hall is a foundation of campus life. The 183,000-square-foot building has 36 classrooms and houses multiple academic departments as well as the PULSE Program for Service Learning, the Academic Advising Center, and the Chocolate Bar, a popular student café.
“The building plan clicked with us in terms of being a part of the academic mission of Boston College,” says Pat. “It allowed the University to unite several different things that were going on in different places on the campus at the same time and bring them under one roof.”
What most impresses Pat and Aja are the students who call BC home. “I always say, if I were to apply to Boston College now, I wouldn’t be able to get in,” Pat confesses, with a laugh.
Last fall, the couple met on campus with a variety of students, all of whom expressed just how critical their financial packages were in their decision to come to Boston College. “BC students are very motivated as well as very interesting,” says Aja. “They all know what they want to do and where they want to go in the future. They feel the responsibility to make something out of the opportunity that has been given to them to study at BC. That makes us feel that scholarships are a worthwhile thing to support.”
Pat and Aja hope their gift can help young people from all backgrounds access the distinctive BC experience, particularly those from their communities. To that end, their scholarship will focus on students from Boys Hope Girls Hope, a youth organization the Stokeses have supported for many years; St. Louis University High School; and Pat’s alma mater, Xavier High School in New York City.
Making a difference
The couple’s base is in St. Louis, Missouri, where Pat’s career began just a handful of years after he graduated from BC. Now both retired, Pat and Aja spend winters along the picturesque shoreline of southern California, where they enjoy the natural beauty of the area and live as true philanthropists. Aja devotes time to several nonprofit organizations in the St. Louis area, including hospice care and Duo Dogs—which trains and connects dogs to people with physical, emotional, and social needs.
Every Saturday, Pat hikes the hills just east of Laguna Beach. Looking out at the ocean, he can see surfers waiting for the perfect crest along the seemingly endless tide. He watches the swells that look like nothing until they reach the coastline—when the mesmerizing ripples become waves that build, curl, and break.
Observation, careful thought, and doing for others. It’s how Pat and Aja have lived their lives and supported Boston College over the years. “One of the first significant gifts we gave to BC was probably two campaigns ago, and we have seen our investments used effectively,” says Pat.
“There is a point in your life when you realize that helping others is a responsibility—when you realize the resources you have can be put to a better use,” he says. “Boston College has helped both of us understand that contributing to education—through financial aid—is one of the best ways to reduce inequality and enable deserving young people to fulfill their potential.”
Pat’s 60-year history with BC has provided him with the long view on the University’s future. Together with Aja, he will continue to make his mark on the Heights.
KAYLA L. NEWMAN
Class of 2023
stokes family endowed scholar
Lynch School of Education and Human Development
Special Program: Pre-Health Program
Bronx, New York