Philip and Barbara Bobko

Phil (’70) and Barbara Bobko are avid symphony fans and often make the trip from their home in Pennsylvania to attend concerts in the Washington, DC area. The Bobkos found great joy in attending concerts, but even more in sharing their love of music with others. At the same time, they were keen to find ways to support the learning experiences of students who attended MIT. So, after buying season tickets to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), Phil and Barbara contacted MIT, and offered to donate the tickets so that current MIT students might enjoy and benefit from the BSO performances.

The Bobkos were delighted to learn about the MIT student arts ticket program. Funded by the Council for the Arts at MIT, the program provides free admission to Boston-area art museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, as well as discounted tickets to dance, theater and music events, including the BSO. Many MIT students take advantage of the BSO opportunity, with more than 675 students attending a performance during 2016–17.

The Bobkos decided to donate their prime orchestra seat tickets to MIT and were delighted to receive notes from current students following the program, expressing their thanks and sharing the special experience they had at the concert. Phil admits, “Reading those notes really solidified our desire to continue to support students in that way.”

Having attended MIT in the late 1960s as a Course XVIII, Mathematics major, Phil expected to learn about math and the physical sciences. “What I found out when I got to MIT was that fellow students were quite interested in these things, but they also had many other ‘non-STEM’ interests. In my free time in the dorms and other living groups, I migrated to the many other students who played classical music, and they opened my eyes to even more terrific classical music.” Phil rounded out his time at MIT enrolling in some music courses, which further motivated him to explore and study composition and music theory. He often frequented the music library and recalls making trips to the BSO for concerts on occasion.

Although Phil, now professor emeritus, taught management and psychology at Gettysburg University for 19 years, it was the arts, particularly music, that always played a role in his life. His mother was a music major in college, and his family listened to music of all kinds while he was growing up. Phil briefly studied piano as a teenager and then again as an adult, and met his wife Barbara, who is an accomplished clarinetist, in a marching band. “For me, music is a fun chance to balance opposites,” he says. “On the one hand, the listener can analyze the music as it occurs, and at the same time simply let the sound and emotions of the music happen.”

Phil and Barbara recognize the importance of learning across disciplines. “I believe the arts are important at an institution like MIT, and I am pleased to see the arts embraced,” Phil says. “The technical side of MIT is wonderfully strong, and students delve deeply into those related majors. The arts are another crucially important way of expressing what we see and create in our world by using our visual and aural senses, in addition to equations, formal logic or building physical entities. Students must have exposure to all kinds of learning and opportunities.”

After donating their tickets to students at MIT for another year, the Bobkos decided to establish a fund to support the student arts ticket program, specifically for MIT’s partnership with the BSO. They have found great joy in experiencing classical music performance, but even more so from sharing the experience with others. By providing support for MIT’s student arts ticket program, particularly for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, “we hope to provide MIT’s current and future students with the same enriching experiences we were lucky enough to find many years ago,” says Phil. “It makes us quite happy to know that many students will see firsthand how glorious such music can be.”

For more information about the tickets program, visit