Helping Close the Opportunity Gap

Jeffrey and Maureen Fox meeting with EOP/AIM students Anthony Machuca ‘22, Sara Villaman ’22 and Erica Ayisi-Boahene ‘23.

Jeffrey and Maureen Fox meeting with EOP/AIM students (left to right) Anthony Machuca ‘22, Sara Villaman ’22 and Erica Ayisi-Boahene ‘23.

For more than 50 years, Stony Brook has provided New York’s high-potential but underserved students the opportunity to attend the state’s top public university through the Educational Opportunity Program/Advancement on Individual Merit (EOP/AIM) Program. Through a combination of state, campus and philanthropic financial support and a proven program of academic advising, tutoring and mentorship, the program has been tremendously successful at removing barriers that stand in the way of student success.

Still, even at one of the nation’s most affordable public universities and after aid provided by the state, students often face one final obstacle: a $2,796 gap. The financial stress of that gap is a heavy burden with far-reaching consequences. Financial constraints mean students struggle to afford even basic course materials and must forgo valuable experiences that would help them compete for internships, graduate school and jobs.

For Stony Brook Class of ’73 alumni Jeffrey Fox and Maureen Fox, the gap and related obstacles are a major concern — and one that is all too familiar. As an undergraduate student, Maureen Fox faced a similar struggle: She relied on a combination of scholarships, grants and loans, yet she still couldn’t afford to purchase her books.

“I couldn’t ask my parents for the money; they didn’t have it. The book wasn’t available in the library, and the professor suggested that if I couldn’t afford the book, maybe I shouldn’t be there,” Maureen Fox recalls. “That stayed with me and had something to do with the impetus to give to the EOP/AIM Program and create our fund.”

The Jeffrey R. and Maureen L. Fox Fund for Education Opportunity helps students fill that financial gap. The Fund also provides critical assistance with books, supplies and other expenses such as study abroad opportunities, graduate school applications and testing preparation costs, professional and experiential learning opportunities and food and housing insecurities.

“We like to say the student is the picture and EOP/AIM is the frame,” says EOP/AIM Director Pamela Matzner, who estimates that approximately 70 students are benefiting from the Foxes’ generosity this fall alone.

“We both benefited from our time at Stony Brook, from the academic experience and from the scholarships and low tuition, and we were able to become successful,” says Jeffrey Fox. “We want to give people like us the opportunity to get an education and move up in society because an educated society is a better society.”

And that’s gratifying to hear for EOP/AIM senior Anthony Machuca ’22, who is pursuing degrees in psychology, sociology and public health and views the program as an essential safety net that deserves robust support.

“Every year, we are told that our EOP/AIM is facing state budget cuts, and it is so disheartening,” Machuca says. “Learning that the Foxes made such a big donation to support us is a great way to start my senior year.”

For the Foxes, their generous gift is just a recent example in a long list of ways they have chosen to give back. After successful careers in their chosen fields — Jeffrey Fox as an engineer and Maureen Fox working in criminal appellate law — the couple is passionate about helping underserved communities and creating educational opportunities. “Education is the most important infrastructure we have, and educational disparities have to be dealt with head-on,” Maureen Fox explains.

Now retired, both Foxes maintain what they call “volunteer jobs” that allow them to do just that. In addition to mentoring engineering students across the country, Jeffrey Fox develops hands-on STEM projects for classroom teachers at Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT), while Maureen Fox works in immigration law, offering legal support and translation services. But when they decided to make a large financial commitment to a program that would have an immediate impact, they turned to their alma mater.

We wanted to do something that would benefit society in a very significant way,” Jeffrey Fox says. “We can’t think of a better place for that than at Stony Brook. And someday, maybe some of the students in the program will do what we’re doing and give back to Stony Brook.

Machuca agrees. “I want to see the EOP/AIM Program continue long after I’m gone. I have four siblings, and we’ve been raised by a single mom. EOP/AIM is helping me create a path for my siblings and the people in my community.”

In a year of extraordinary challenges, alumni and friends came together in a remarkable way to support our students, faculty, healthcare workers and patients. For a wider view at the vast impact of your support, take a look at this year’s Stony Brook Foundation Annual Report to Donors.

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