Financial Aid Alumni stress the importance, difference that financial aid makes in the Lab community

1945 was a year for the history books. The atomic bomb fell, as did WWII. Yugoslavia emerged, while FDR retained power. And James Geocaris ’45 graduated from The Laboratory Schools.

James Geocaris '45

A student who received his entire tuition through need-based financial aid, Geocaris said that it was the sheer willpower of his mother that got him through the front doors.

“My mother made an appointment with the principal, Mr. Seyfried. I don’t know how she did it but she did,” he said. “We took two street cars over there. He extended his hand and said, ‘James, welcome to U-High.’”

Left, Retired Judge James Geocaris with son Jim, right.

A retired judge, Geocaris spent twenty years as the presiding judge in District 3 Rolling Meadows, a Chicago suburb. The difficulty of growing up poor in the 1930s wasn’t lost on Geocaris, especially as one of eight children.

“I don’t know where I’d be today without my experience at Lab,” Geocaris said. “It gave me a start in life.”

His mother, as many parents in our Lab community have done over the 127 years of its existence, fought for Geocaris. She knew he was special, he said. But without financial aid, Geocaris would not have attended Lab.

Now, a great grandparent, Geocaris is honored to brag of his four sons, one of whom sits on a state supreme court, another is a district attorney. Lab changed the trajectory for his entire family.

And that’s exactly why Harry Bims ’81 gives back to his alma mater. “My dad didn’t spend money on anything and decided that he would spend money on my education at Lab,” said Bims. “I had to maximize the opportunity. I focused on doing the best I could. I was behind in certain areas because I came from public school. I pushed myself to catch up and get to the point where I was taking AP Classes. I was a serious kid.”

Harry Bims '81

Bims gives directly to support financial aid, because he believes strongly in the need for socio-economic diversity within the Lab community. For Bims, financial aid would have made a difference for him and his family. That’s why he gives back to provide others with the same opportunity.

“If we didn’t have financial aid, a sizable portion of our population wouldn’t be here,” said Irene Reed, director of admissions. “Every year we turn away fantastic students because we don’t have enough aid.”

Geocaris will always be thankful to his mother for believing in the power of education. “Every day, she gave me a quarter for street car fare to get to Lab,” said Geocaris. “We never spent anything because we didn’t have anything. Those years were tough times. But Lab gave me a new start in life.”

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