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Alumnus Profile: Lee Jacokes

Current Aquinas students can easily feel a lack of connection to our College’s history. However, there is nothing quite like a conversation with someone who was part of Aquinas’ recent history to give one a new appreciation for the school and all those who have been a part of it. Aquinas alumnus Lee Jacokes ‘61 has a truly unique perspective - that of student, professor, member of the administration, and dedicated supporter of the College. Listening to Jacokes’ stories, it is obvious that he has seen the College in all of its glory, controversy, and down-to-earth reality.

Jacokes first came to Aquinas in 1956. Having the option to go on to college or enter the military service, he chose to continue his education. After one semester as a music major, Jacokes realized that he was in the wrong field - “I had never touched a piano, so I was a bit behind the curve already,” he said. He left to attend Grand Rapids Community College for two years. Then Jacokes chose Aquinas again, this time to study mathematics and psychology. He served as a teaching assistant in science-based psychology courses and his interest in psychology led him to pursue a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Detroit. After his graduate work was complete, Jacokes was asked to return to Aquinas as a faculty member in 1964.

Aquinas has transformed over the last fifty years and Jacokes was involved in many of those changes. In 1969, he served as the Deputy Director of the College’s Self-Study. This comprehensive review of the College resulted in changes across the board, including the governance of the school and the curriculum.

As the Registrar and Admissions Officer, Jacokes watched the effects of the baby boom in 1969-70. At this time, there were a greater number of high school graduates seeking a college education than ever before. After this, however, enrollment dropped. It left Aquinas and other colleges needing to make changes. Suddenly, they had to go out and find students. “We used to just be able to open up the doors, let in the number of students that we wanted, then close the door on the line and that was recruiting,” Jacokes joked.

He also played a key role in the introduction of computers to Aquinas. Jacokes promoted the creation of an administrative computer system, while his fellow faculty member, Charles Frydrych ‘63, pushed computers into the academic side of the College.

Jacokes went on to serve in a number of administrative roles, but returned to teaching in the psychology department and graduate management program. He continued to teach a psychology class until this past year. In regards to teaching at Aquinas, Jacokes said, “I enjoyed every minute of it; it was the best job in the world to me.” Further accomplishments of Jacokes’ include the publishing of a book titled “Congratulations! You are a Manager!” as well as a book used in the senior research seminar of the psychology department.

Aquinas runs in the Jacokes family now. His wife, Fran, is an Aquinas graduate as are their three daughters. In honor of the Jacokes’ 50th wedding anniversary, their daughters created a scholarship in their names. “Our family is definitely Aquinites!” Jacokes said.

Persistence, in Jacokes experience, is critical to successfully surviving college. “You just have to continue and persist - even at the times you when you want to bang your head against the wall or say ‘to hell with this, I can go out and make money today.’ A lot of people didn’t have the persistence, which was too bad because they robbed themselves of potential opportunities.”