By Monica Chapman
Beth Stocker's philanthropic spirit was no secret. But three years after her death, the full reach of the Ohio University alumna's charity is just now becoming known.
Since its inception in the 1980s, the university's Program to Aid Career Exploration (PACE) has been largely supported by an anonymous donor. Those attuned to university happenings always suspected that Stocker -- a generous source of charitable giving at Ohio University -- may have had a hand in making the program possible.
"Mrs. Stocker chose to be anonymous during her lifetime. She was very modest and did not wish to have a lot of fanfare. Now that she has passed, we in University Advancement feel it is important for students to understand who made the PACE program possible," said Jennifer Bowie, director of development, annual fund and communication.
Stocker's first gift to PACE came in 1983 -- a $100,000 contribution that established the work-study program, which Stocker continued to support throughout her lifetime. When she passed away in 2005, The Ohio University Foundation received $5 million from Stocker's estate, of which $500,000 was specifically earmarked for PACE. This brought Stocker's total contributions to PACE to more than $2 million and contributions by Stocker and her husband, the late C. Paul Stocker, to Ohio University as a whole to $31.9 million.
The PACE program gives qualified students the opportunity to gain professional experience in a field of their choice while still in school. As PACE employees, students may earn up to $2,100 per academic year working an average of 10 hours per week. Three hundred students currently are employed by PACE, and several thousand have come through the program over the years, according to Melissa Van Meter, senior assistant director of need analysis and student employment.
"Putting it into practice -- there's nothing quite like it," said Jane Norton, the second of the Stockers' three daughters, who served as executive director of the Stocker Foundation for 20 years. "(My mother) always felt that if you had that work experience, you could then understand what the real problems are. I'm sure she embraced (PACE) because she felt it was a great addition to the entire learning process."
As Ohio University alumni, the Stockers always held a place in their hearts for students and faculty. Their giving has enhanced faculty enrichment programs, University Libraries, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, student scholarships and more.
"Beth believed in and wanted to support student employment related to career goals," said President Emeritus Charles Ping, who spent a day with Stocker each year reporting on the stewardship of her many gifts. "She contributed generously not only to the aid of students but to their development."
The Stockers knew firsthand the value of hard work, Norton said.
"My parents both lived through the Great Depression, and they both understood what it was like to be out of work. When they were finally able to give back, they did so," she said. "And it was really life experiences that made them have empathy."
Beth Stocker remained involved with Ohio University throughout her lifetime, providing counsel and guidance on the many programs that thrived under her patronage -- including PACE and the Russ College Stocker Scholars program.
"Beth Stocker was so well-attuned to Ohio University that all she did for us was aligned with the elements of Vision OHIO (which she predated), especially excellence in undergraduate education, strong research in selected programs and, above all, diversity," said Dennis Irwin, dean of the Russ College.
Ohio University awarded Stocker the Founders Citation, Ohio University's highest honor, in 2003. That same year, the university added an honorary doctoral degree to her list of honors from her alma mater.
But Norton said Stocker never sought such recognition.
"(My mother) liked to be behind the scenes and was always very reluctant to be a public figure in that arena," Norton said. "She was humble and modest and always felt that the focus should be on the service provided. She believed the real work was always done by the staff and the participants in the field -- that it was those who were doing the work who should be focused upon."
In order to be eligible for the PACE program, a student must be an undergraduate with at least 30 credit hours earned, have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.3 and meet income criteria defined by the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.
Full-time faculty and administrative staff on the Athens campus can apply for PACE positions, and those the PACE committee determines to be most beneficial to students are funded.
"I continually receive positive feedback from students and employers regarding the program," Van Meter said, "and I feel very fortunate to be involved with it."