Frank P. Doyle pays for classes, books and housing

Gideon Halpin, Contributing Writer

No living descendants. Over 120,000 heirs.  A Sonoma County legend.  Frank P. Doyle is more than a library’s namesake.  He was the most generous man to ever be associated with Santa Rosa Junior College.

Why is a man long dead relevant?  In 2013 the Doyle scholarship helped pay SRJC student Ryan Hughes’ tuition, funded Allyson Bricker to buy text books, and aided Logan Stanly to pay for his education. 

In 2014 his gift enabled Nathan Bailey to cover living expenses and save for a university.  His funding will continue for 2015 high school graduates and likely will continue to provide scholarships for each upcoming graduating class.  Currently, there are more than 120,000 students that he has granted money to, postmortem.

Beyond mentioning his name in a history lesson, his memory is paid tribute annually as hundreds of SRJC students receive upwards of $700-$1,000 upon full-time enrollment.

This generosity was accomplished through his will.  Like Samson of old, his greatest feat was realized in his death.  In 1948, Doyle set aside his controlling 50.3 percent share in Exchange Bank to go to a scholarship fund to help “Worthy young men and women attending Santa Rosa Junior College.”The program was named the Frank P. Doyle and Polly O’Meara Doyle Scholarship Fund after him and his beloved wife.

As long as Exchange Bank exists, generation after generation of graduating seniors with marks above 2.75 are eligible to receive the one-time scholarship granted to almost 2,000 students per year.

Since Doyle, the former president and cofounder of Exchange Bank died in 1948, more than $76 million has enabled students to pay for tuition, books, gas, food, and living costs.  The value for students of this scholarship is enormous.  To those with full-time careers, the amounts granted may seem inconsequential, but to the student who knows the struggle of affording college, meager housing, food, and gas money, the amount is manna from heaven.

The scholarship fund is directly linked to the economy and fluctuates with the profits of Exchange Bank.  In the aftershock of the depression, the scholarship was suspended from 2011-2012 because of insufficient funds.  Upon its return in 2013 the scholarship was worth $700 per recipient.  For the graduating high school class of 2014, 1,500 received the increased scholarship of $1,000. 

As for the accessibility of the scholarship, retired SRJC scholarship staff Merle Martin said, “I would say 75 percent is the general acceptance rate.”

Statistics are impressive, but lifeless.  To see the depth of philanthropy the recipients must have faces.  One of them is Sina Milton, class of 2015. She said, “It’s really nice.  I’m really happy that you can get a scholarship as a high school student.”  The words “courteous gift” were used to describe it.

To give a glimpse of Doyle the man, among other accomplishments ,he helped create the Sonoma Coast State Park, established a city park in memory of his 13-year-old son, and was called “Father of the Golden Gate Bridge.”  Doyle’s generosity was matched with his vision for the good of  Sonoma County and the Bay Area.  In fact, they were intertwined, each making the other stronger.

However, the Doyle Scholarship would have probably never been appropriated if not for the death of Doyle’s only son, leaving him heirless.  In a way, he now has over 120,000 adopted children made heirs in his death.  Yet, the majority of those receiving the gift have no knowledge and thereby no gratitude to the man behind the check.  It is just money for getting good grades and attending the local community college, and that is a tragic picture.

Because of his love for Sonoma County and his support of youth attending SRJC, the campus library bears his name as a token of remembrance.  Yet, though such a grandiose learning center bears his name, it is just that, a name; nothing more.  Doyle Library will be a meaningless library title if there is no remembrance of the man for whom it was dedicated.

A complete stranger, over 65 years deceased, continues to give hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to people he could not have possibly known or envisioned.  That is why you should know Frank P. Doyle.