Impressions of Generosity

 

Why a former basketball coach and his family decided to make a major gift in support of the new library addition

Ted and Betty SkokosWhat young Ted Skokos lacked in size, he more than made up for in athleticism and ball-handling skills. In fact, the 5’7” guard was good enough to play his way into a basketball scholarship to Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.

 

At the time, though, W&J was more concerned with football (the tiny school had actually played Cal to a 0-0 tie in the 1922 Rose Bowl), and the basketball coach was a local attorney who volunteered his time after hours. He also went out of his way to support his players off the court, helping Skokos land a janitorial job on campus for $15 a month to help with his expenses.

 

That generosity made an impression. Years later, in the early 1950s when Fort Smith Junior College’s basketball program needed the same kind of leadership, Skokos, by then a successful Fort Smith dentist, answered the call.

 

The program had been discontinued during wartime and little remained of it but a closet full of old uniforms and a couple of basketballs. But Skokos, like his former mentor, volunteered his time to coach in the evenings—on one half of the Boys Club court—after closing his office for the day.

 

The team’s record wasn’t much to brag about, but by his generosity, Skokos gave dozens of young men an opportunity to participate in college athletics that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

 

Also like his former coach, Skokos became a mentor and a friend to his players. He and his wife, Betty, took them under their wings, encouraged them academically, even occasionally cooked them a hot meal or did the odd load of laundry.

 

At first glance, then, it might be surprising that the Skokoses would make a $500,000 gift to name the Dr. Ted and Betty Skokos Commons in the new Learning and Research Center at Boreham Library, rather than to the athletic program, with which they were so involved. But there’s more to the story.

 

For starters, Ted and Betty simply believe a library is the most important part of a college campus. “To me, it’s an integral part of any college or university,” Ted says. “It means more to the entire university than any other single thing.”

 

Then there’s Betty’s aunt, who was a librarian in Van Buren; and her mother, a voracious reader; and Betty herself, a teacher with an unusual command of mechanics and grammar.

 

And then there’s Ted’s longstanding friendship with the late Roland “Bud” Boreham, whose name the existing library bears. “I was very close to Bud and his family,” he says. “I just thought so much of him that I wanted to be a part—and my family wanted to be a part—of his tribute to the college.”

 

In a sense, the Skokoses are doing the same thing they did with the FSJC basketball team—paying forward a previous act of generosity. Just as Ted volunteered his time as a coach the same way his own coach had, the Skokoses are now giving to support the institution’s library the same way the Borehams did 20 years ago.

 

In fact, the way the Skokoses see it, they’re picking up where the Borehams left off, helping to vault the facility that bears the Boreham name—and now theirs, too—into the 21st century.