Dean Stokes Retires After 27 Years
Senior Assistant Dean Jerry Stokes is retiring after 27 years of solving financial aid and admissions dilemmas at the Law School. Stokes has a great deal of pride about what he accomplished at Virginia, but he will clearly spend the most time recalling the students he helped along the way. “Each year at graduation I have pangs, literally, as a couple dozen students I’ve worked closely with walk across the stage.”
Stokes, along with former Dean of Admissions Al Turnbull ’62, and current Dean Susan Palmer, has seen incredible changes in the world of admissions and financial aid in the past few decades with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX. The resulting public policies affecting university admissions changed the landscape at the nation’s colleges and universities. Stokes has enjoyed the challenges involved in bringing those policies to bear. “I have been so fortunate. This is the best kind of job a person can have,” he says. His love for the job has always been evident. “We felt very fortunate to have Jerry come to the Law School,” said now retired Al Turnbull. “He has a sense of seasoned idealism that he carries into the admissions and financial aid processes. He believes, and he’s correct, that this is very important work.”
Stokes’s commitment to shaping the student body was bolstered by his enthusiasm and exuberance for the Law School. “He has a marvelous warmth and ability to engage with people. Jerry brought a lot of energy to the admissions efforts of the Law School,” added Turnbull.
Stokes attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for his undergraduate and legal studies. He received his J.D. in 1964. His life changed course when the Peace Corps assigned him to the faculty of Roberts College in Istanbul. He taught American literature and writing there, but his exposure to the stark culture of one of the world’s poorest cities changed his perspective profoundly. “When I headed to Istanbul I was a protected, provincial, frat boy. After two years there that frat boy was unrecognizable.”
After finishing his work in Istanbul in 1966, Stokes worked in admissions at Yale University for eight years, with several years as director. Those were challenging times for Yale and the nation. Higher education was changing with the American culture, and Stokes was charged with recruiting from schools not traditionally thought of as Yale feeder schools and bringing women into the student body. Stokes then went on to serve as interim dean of admissions at Amherst College during its first year as a co-ed institution. After Amherst, Stokes came to Virginia. He’s been here in his current role since 1977.
According to Stokes, there are simply too many memorable stories for him to single out one, two, or even a handful from his years in dealing with potential students. “It’s so gratifying. I still get occasional cards from people 20 years out,” said Stokes from his Law School office.
But now Dean Stokes is ready to create new stories in his life. At 60-something, this grandfather of six is moving to San Francisco, intent on starting a guest house for visitors. He plans on pursuing consulting work with a few West Coast law schools, and will return to the East Coast to spend time continuing his trustee work with the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Stokes still brings to the Law School the same energy he has for 27 years. His excitement about life is contagious and his legacy will live on at the Law School and through its alumni for generations to come. And although Charlottesville will no longer be his primary home, he takes comfort in the fact that he will continue to run into Law School graduates all over the country.
Jerry Stokes is happy to receive email from alumni at: firstname.lastname@example.org.