In the fall of 1956, Peter Stonebraker ’60 came to the Governor’s Academy as a day student from Newbury. The experiences and education he received there proved formative and elicited a commitment to the school from Stonebraker and his wife Eva that has remained constant throughout their lives.
The Stonebrakers met in July of 1962, while on a mountain-climbing trip with students from Switzerland’s University of Lausanne. The two shared numerous adventures that summer, then returned to their homes. They stayed in touch and Eva subsequently joined Peter for a 5,000+ mile road trip through Central America – from Panama City, Panama to Newbury, Mass – in a Volkswagen Beetle. They were married in Denmark in January, 1968.
For the subsequent 18 years, Eva participated in Peter’s military career, and throughout, they shared a love of travel and adventure, as well as a love of knowledge and spirit of personal service. This commitment to doing what must be done in service of the larger goal is a characteristic that has carried both Stonebrakers through many challenges of life, and Peter credits The Governor’s Academy for instilling the trait. “I wasn’t a particularly good student, but Governor’s was a tremendous place for me. The Academy helped me learn to love knowledge and the importance of teamwork; it established the foundation of many personal and professional values.”
Stonebraker attended the Academy as a day student. “My mother died of cancer when I was 11 years old, but before she passed away, she made my dad promise that he would move the family from Milton Mills, NH back to Newbury so that my brothers and I could attend the Governor’s Academy.” Once there, Stonebraker quickly learned the importance of working hard to achieve his goals. “I was up at 6:30 every weekday morning, caught the bus to school at 7:15, got home around 6:30 in the evening, studied for three hours or so and went to bed. The next morning, I would get up and do it again.”
Stonebraker freely admits that he wasn’t a natural when it came to academics, but says Academy teachers inspired him to give his best. “They were great teachers, yes, but they were also tremendous mentors. My Latin teacher Howard Navins, my math teacher Ben Stone, my French teacher Roy Ohrn, my English teacher Tom Mercer, my history teacher David Williams, and so many others – they instilled a love of knowledge that carried me through my years at the Academy and later gave me the impetus to obtain a master’s and a Ph.D.”
Stonebraker’s participation in Governor’s athletic teams – he played soccer, hockey, and tennis – likewise taught him the power of teamwork and the dignity of a contest well-fought, whatever the outcome. “When I was a student, athletics were mandatory,” he recalls. “We got out of classes at about 3 p.m. and had to do two hours of sports immediately afterwards. Sports were a tremendous part of the program at Governor’s; they taught me to work with others in achieving a goal and imparted the lesson that you either win or lose…and I learned to focus competitively.”
That love of knowledge and commitment to the goal provided Stonebraker with a strong foundation for his military and academic career. After graduating from Bowdoin in 1964, Stonebraker was commissioned as an Army Second Lieutenant. He enjoyed a successful 21-year career in the military, working in psychological operations, military intelligence, and the Chemical Corps and earning a Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medals as well as an MBA and Ph.D. in management.
Since retiring from the military in 1985, Stonebraker has taught at a number of universities in the Greater Chicago area. He is an emeritus professor at Northeastern Illinois University and is now a clinical professor at Loyola University Chicago. He has also been an adjunct or visiting professor at Northern Illinois University, Northwestern University, and Illinois Institute of Technology.
“Governor’s has given so much to me – which warrants that Eva and I give back,” says Peter frankly. And give back they have. Over the course of the past several decades, the Stonebrakers have sought to repay their debt of gratitude through a host of generous initiatives. In 2007, they established The Louis Vernon Stonebraker Memorial Scholarship in memory of Peter’s dad. To qualify, applicants must be day students from Newbury, Newburyport, West Newbury, Amesbury, Rowley, Byfield, and Ipswich who have demonstrated financial need and the ability to positively impact the Governor’s community. They must also evince a willingness to embrace the many opportunities and experiences available to them during their time at the Academy. “I was a day student and am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the Academy,” says Peter. “I know there are many worthy students who are eager to attend the school, yet lack the necessary financial resources. I want to give them the same chances to grow and learn that I had.”
Academy alumna Mei Li Johnson was a 2010 Stonebraker Scholar. “My family and I are fully aware and grateful for your generosity, which provided a scholarship for a local student,” said Johnson in a thank-you note to the Stonebrakers. “The reality of such a fine education would never have been mine if I hadn’t had the support of your gift to the school. I thank you very much for making this extraordinary opportunity available to me. I will try to honor your gift by working hard and getting the most out of this experience I possibly can. Perhaps someday I will be in a position to help someone in the same way you have helped me.”
In 2011, the Stonebrakers created The Peter William Stonebraker (’60) International Study Award, which facilitates travel and study for one or several student(s) each year. “My travels throughout the 50 states and abroad have broadened my perspective and changed my life in so many ways,” says Peter. “An educated person is one who has a global perspective, and travel is an important means of broadening one’s horizons.”
Most recently, the Stonebrakers formalized a major, planned gift through the Academy in support of the leadership phase of the school’s forthcoming capital campaign: With True Courage. They hope their gifts will encourage others to consider supporting Governor’s, which Peter adamantly believes gives so much to so many.
“My experiences at the Academy broadened my life in ways that I could not have realized by any other means,” he concludes. “The school got me off on the right foot and motivated the trip to Europe where I met my wife. It also changed the lives of my brothers Michael (’61) and David (’66). They’re academics as well and have both enjoyed successful careers. Without Governor’s, and the phenomenal support of our parents, all three of us would have missed many life opportunities.”