A University of South Alabama trustee and his wife have made the largest gift ever to USA by an alumni couple -- a $2 million gift to be used toward scholarships in creative writing and for the College of Medicine.
The most recent gifts by Dr. and Mrs. Steven H. Stokes of Dothan bring their total gifts to the University to $2.42 million, including University matching gifts.
“The University of South Alabama and the people it serves have benefited doubly from Dr. Steve Stokes and Angelia Stokes, through the wise counsel of Dr. Stokes on the Board of Trustees, as well as the couple's generous giving in support of USA's students and academic programs,” said USA President Gordon Moulton.
The $2 million gift is a combination of a bequest of 1,000 acres of timberland, valued at $1.75 million, and a $125,000 pledge to the Angelia and Steven H. Stokes Endowed Scholarship in Creative Writing. The scholarship pledge over the next five years will be matched by University funds with a like amount. The gifts are part of Campaign USA, the University’s first comprehensive fund-raising campaign.
Stokes and his wife, Angelia, are USA alumni. She completed her business degree in 1979, and he received his medical degree in 1980. He is a practicing radiation oncologist in the Dothan area.
He was appointed to the USA Board of Trustees in 1993 by then-Governor Jim Folsom, Jr., and reappointed by Governor Bob Riley in 2005. Stokes currently serves as board vice-chairman.
The University will receive 1,000 acres of the Stokes’ timberland in Barbour County, Ala., which is currently valued at approximately $1,750 per acre. Proceeds from the bequest will be split evenly between the Angelia and Steven H. Stokes Endowed Scholarship in Creative Writing and unrestricted funds for the College of Medicine.
Of the gifts to the University, Stokes said, “I have learned as a cancer specialist that each of us is only a heartbeat away from eternity, and therefore, don’t delay doing good until later because tomorrow is promised to no one.”
When asked about the couple’s commitment to creative writing, he said, “A society will be remembered by the literature it produces. I hope someday South Alabama will have an alumnus to win the Pulitzer Prize in literature.”
Mrs. Stokes added, “The University of South Alabama has always meant a whole lot to us. The University gave us such a great start in life that we feel obligated to give something back.”
A former Army Ranger, Stokes led troops in Vietnam, served two terms on Dothan’s city commission and maintains a thriving radiation oncology practice, yet he’s never lost touch with his humble Dothan farm roots. His small-town humility belies his impressive resume, which includes civic service in medical, business and community groups. Being named Dothan’s Man of the Year by the Hawk-Houston Boys Club is just one of the many honors for this Rotarian. He is the elected board chairman of Dothan City Schools. And, each year, he serves as a team leader for a medical mission trip to Panama for Covenant United Methodist Church in Dothan.
The son of a farmer, Stokes worked his way through college on a Navy ROTC scholarship. A land lover, he took the Marine Corps option of his service. After graduating with honors from U.S. Army Ranger School, Stokes led a platoon in Vietnam in the early 1970s.
His military service took him to Arlington National Cemetery, where he arranged funerals and coordinated accommodations for grieving families.
During this time, the marine biology/ocean chemistry major took pre-med courses. He also met his wife, Angelia, a Kentucky native who was working at Arlington. Six months later, they married and moved to Mobile.
While at the University of South Alabama, he launched into medical school and she pursued her business degree. As Hillsdale residents, the couple enjoyed their time as students. During Hurricane Frederick, Stokes took refuge in a campus building. His wife, a stockbroker, was in St. Louis on business.
His training took him to Washington University’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology in St. Louis. Later, he worked for a year as a faculty member at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and joined a private radiation oncology practice there. By 1987, he returned to Dothan to establish his practice. He also operates clinics in Enterprise, Ala., and Marianna, Fla.
Mrs. Stokes, a former stockbroker, currently works to secure federal grant funding for a cancer screening program directed at senior citizens, especially those who live in rural areas of the state.
Dr. and Mrs. Stokes have three sons: Simon, 22; Jonathan, 21; and Steven, 17.
The gifts are part of Campaign USA, the University’s first comprehensive fund-raising campaign that seeks to raise $75 million for USA programs, faculty, students and construction over the next three years. Campaign USA was launched in March and, to date, has raised $45.3 million. Stokes is part of the Campaign USA Leadership team, a group of campaign volunteers comprised of local and national leaders, many of whom are alumni.
“This wonderful gift is the largest commitment to Campaign USA by alumni to date, and it should serve as an inspiration to other alumni to support their alma mater through this campaign,” Busta said.
Dr. Joseph F. Busta, Jr., vice president for development and alumni relations at USA, said the Stokes gift is very important to the University and the Campaign.