When Joseph Giles, ’96, MBA’01, JD’01, and Stacy Giles, ’95, first began to give back, they started with the Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit, the church Stacy Giles grew up in. They endowed a scholarship there, the same type of fund that gave Stacy Giles some financial help while she was a student at the University of Michigan.
“That got us into the mode of giving,” Joseph Giles says. “[Stacy’s] passion for giving back drives our family’s mission orientation and philanthropy.”
The couple then turned to their alma mater.
“Stacy said to me, ‘Hey, you remember when you didn’t have any money and you were applying to like 40 separate private scholarships? I benefited from my father managing his resources very well. But now that we’re at this point, let’s give back,’” Joseph Giles says. “I give her a lot of credit. It was her idea to do what we’ve done at the church but at Michigan as well.”
They first zeroed in on the LEAD Scholars program through the Alumni Association. The program offers merit-based scholarships and empowering community support to admitted students who exemplify the program’s four pillars: leadership, excellence, achievement, and diversity. They gave their first gift to LEAD in 2018.
The two say as they’ve gotten to know LEAD Scholars, they are wildly impressed with the students in the program.
The Giles family recently made a $1 million gift to the LEAD Scholars program, along with additional scholarships to the Ross School of Business and the Marsal Family School of Education, bringing their total giving to the Alumni Association and the University to approximately $2 million.
“We’re just really excited to be able to support Michigan because we have great memories here,” Joseph Giles says. “But more importantly, it gives these really talented kids an opportunity to experience Michigan, because, without this money, they’re going to MIT, Stanford, or Harvard.”
Coming to Michigan
When Joseph Giles first arrived at U-M, it was a rough time for his family.
His father had recently lost a small business and was in personal bankruptcy. His mother, a teacher, was trying to save the family home. Joseph Giles was given a full tuition scholarship but needed to cover room and board.
“My dad turned to me and said, ‘I’m going to give you everything I have.’ He opened his wallet and gave me $20,” Joseph Giles says.
He knew someone already on campus and immediately reached out.
“She helped get me a job at Scorekeepers [Sports Grill and Pub]. I worked there all four years,” he says. “It was the best thing for me because it kept me focused.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere on campus, Stacy Giles was at the Marsal Family School of Education, following her family’s tradition.
“I felt kind of destined to go to Michigan,” she says. “My mother went to Michigan for undergrad and grad school. My brother and sister went to Michigan as well.”
Besides U-M, careers in education drove the family. Her father, Alvin Bell, was a principal and had a 37-year career in education. Her mother, Sandra Bell, ’59, MA’66, was a teacher, and her sister, Leslie Bell, ’89, also went into education.
“I came from a family of educators,” Stacy Giles says. “I followed in their footsteps and became a teacher with Detroit Public Schools.”
At U-M, Stacy got a part-time job near campus to have some spending cash while pursuing her degree.
“My father put all three of us, on a principal’s salary, through Michigan,” she says. “I really commend him for that. I’m so very thankful because we didn’t get financial aid. So on a middle-class salary, he put us through Michigan.”
Joseph Giles, who says he has a photographic memory, came to U-M with the aim of becoming a brain surgeon and was accepted into the College of Engineering. But he decided to change course early in his studies.
“I quickly realized I didn’t have a lot in common with the other kids. I think I was a nerd, but didn’t know it,” he says, laughing.
Joseph Giles ended up at the Ross School of Business.
“I think my mom was sad. She thought I was going to be the first doctor in the family. But my dad was quietly excited for me,” he says.
Growing up in Flint, Michigan, his mother started off as a teacher and finished her career as dean of Detroit College of Business and his father worked for General Motors before striking out on his own as a franchisee. Joseph Giles worked at the business throughout high school, but it failed when the franchisor went out of business.
“I saw the ups and downs of that, and I think that had a tremendous impact on my life,” he says.
Finding Each Other and Community
Stacy first caught Joseph’s eye while he was still a high school senior, visiting U-M with his cousin at an event at Stockwell Hall.
“She was the first girl l saw. I walked up to Stockwell, and she was sitting there with her legs swinging back and forth. I walked through the door and was like, ‘Who was that?’” Joseph Giles says.
Stacy Giles doesn’t remember seeing Joseph that night, but the two started dating a couple of years later after both got involved with Greek life on campus.
Stacy Giles pledged Delta Sigma Theta which is focused on sisterhood, scholarship, service, and social action.
“That was my village,” she says. “Although people of color were, and still are, a minority on campus, I felt like it was, at the time, big enough for me. I always felt like I had a community. I know it’s different now.”
Joseph Giles says joining Omega Psi Phi opened doors for him in terms of personal relationships. He also met an influential person in life at U-M through the fraternity: Mary Stewart.
Stewart served as the events coordinator for the Michigan Union for more than four decades and was close to many of the Black fraternities and sororities because the Union is where those organizations held their parties.
“She became a second mom to me and my fraternity brothers, Stacy’s sorority sisters, and people who weren’t in fraternities or sororities,” Joseph Giles says. “Without a doubt, she helped me get through college.”
After graduating from U-M, Joseph Giles went to work as an accountant for Arthur Anderson and Stacy Giles became a teacher at Detroit Public Schools. They got married in 1999 and Joseph Giles returned to U-M to get his MBA and law degrees. He became a corporate lawyer and ended up at Goldman Sachs, starting a successful career in investment banking and private equity.
Later, he served as president and chief operating officer for Athletico Physical Therapy and was the founder and CEO of Midwest Vision Partners, a provider of eyecare management services to leading ophthalmology and optometry practices in the Midwest. He has served as venture chair with Redesign Health, a health care innovation platform.
They have two children, Justin and Alex.
In addition to financial contributions, the two also like to give back with their time. Stacy Giles is the advisory board chair with ChiGivesBack, works with the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Marsal Family School of Education, and is on the executive leadership council of The Raise, a U-M committee created in 2020 to advocate for Black students, staff, and faculty at U-M; diversify the student body on campus; increase representation on boards across campus; and increase Black engagement.
Joseph Giles joined the board of directors of the Alumni Association in 2022 and enjoys mentoring students. He says it’s important to help expose students to the opportunities that are out there as soon as possible. He didn’t understand the opportunities on Wall Street until he was exposed to it while working on his MBA.
“We’ve gotten older, obviously. But our connection and passion for the University has not changed,” Joseph Giles says. “I feel the same way about Michigan today that I felt when I was on campus: it’s a great place to go, meet great people, nice people, hard-working people. And you can learn a ton and be part of one of the most exciting learning environments in the world.”
Jeremy Carroll is the content strategist for the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.