Robert Oakes' past propels him to invest in Pacific’s future

Robert Oakes

Robert Oakes

While working at the Association of Independent California Colleges & Universities, Robert Oakes ’86, ’90 sought to learn why so many students were not completing a four-year degree.

He discovered the cost of higher education and a lack of cultural or societal support were key drivers. These findings did not surprise him; without the scholarships he received at University of the Pacific, Oakes may not have completed college himself.

One of five children raised by a single mother, Oakes attended Columbia Community College before transferring to Pacific and completing a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The Sonora native later earned his JD at the McGeorge School of Law. 

Today he is the policy director for New California Coalition, a statewide political advocacy organization focused on housing, economic empowerment and infrastructure. He is also a realtor and real estate investor. As a first-generation college graduate, Oakes credits much of his success to Pacific.

“Pacific immeasurably changed my life for the better, and I want to enable that experience for others,” he said.

Oakes’ personal experience and his findings at the AICCU have stayed with him, resonating so deeply that this year, he updated his estate plans to include a generous bequest for Pacific. After he dies, his estate will fund three endowed scholarships. Two will support business and law students with financial need.

The third scholarship fund, named for Oakes’ late brother Philip Sciaroni, will benefit students in the liberal arts. Sciaroni studied drama at Pacific for several semesters, inspiring Oakes to follow him there. To this day, Oakes deeply values the liberal arts training both he and Philip received.

“The most valuable thing I took away from my Pacific education wasn’t knowing how to work with spreadsheets or do a SWOT analysis,” Oakes said. “It was critical thinking, life skills, and exposure to art, culture and history.”

Oakes is a member of the Heritage Society, along with hundreds of others who have remembered Pacific in their estate plans. Estate gifts, or planned gifts, include commitments in one’s will or trust. They can also take the form of retirement income, stock, real estate, personal property and other deferred gifts.

“Heritage Society donors are pillars of the Pacific community,” said Scott Biederman ‘05, ‘20, vice president for development and alumni relations. “They look beyond the university’s immediate needs, thinking instead about how to help students who will be here years from now. Their support sustains our future.”

For Robert Oakes, sustaining Pacific’s future means doing his part to help new generations of students overcome the same barriers he did.

“All of us can give something to Pacific, and we should,” Oakes said. “I want to support the success of those who come after me. I hope those students go on to have more enriching, fulfilling lives as a result of their Pacific education, that they are committed to their communities and their families and become contributors to society.”

To learn more about making an estate gift to University of the Pacific, contact Molly Byrne, senior associate vice president for development, at 209.946.2780 or