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As president of the National Bar Association, Rodney Moore J.D. '85 puts priority on hammering at the bricks built up around the legal profession.
|Ignatian Award Winners: With President Engh at center, they are, from left, Vicky and Brad Mattson, Cathy Cobb, and Don Odermann.
Photo: Adam Hayes
A Santa Clara outfielder with a hot bat but a bum arm, Don Odermann learned how steep the climb was to the major leagues. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia 1962–65, he learned that escaping poverty was no easier.
So while vacationing in the Dominican Republic in the early 1980s, Odermann saw the baseball-mad kids all around him as few could. Many, he knew, would be snapped up for dirt cheap contracts then cast out when they faltered. So Odermann formed the Latin Athletes Education Fund, designed to bring poor but promising players to American colleges where they might still prosper as athletes—and where they could definitely get an education.
A generation later, Odermann has helped send more than 120 men to college, including Juan Parra, a senior outfielder at Santa Clara this past season. Fifty have graduated from four-year schools; most have at least two years of college. Eleven have made the majors with its bonanza paydays. Odermann, though, gets no repayment, and not even much attention.
Last year the New York Times dubbed him a “virtually unknown stockbroker from San Jose.” But to insiders, Odermann is a beacon of integrity in a murky world.
“My family took me as far as I could go in the Dominican Republic,” Rafael Pérez, director of international player development for the New York Mets, told the Times. “Don took me as far as I could go in the world.”
For the Alumni Awards, Odermann had his own cheering section in the house—the “Rodents,” a raucous pack of classmates from the mid-1960s. When Alumni Association President Steve Philpott ’97 presented the award, he noted, “Your efforts to provide higher education for the Latino community are remarkable.” Then he added, “Your time and dedication to the world of baseball reminds us all that we are all of one world, one human race, even including ‘rodents.’”
Early retirement wasn’t on Cathy Cobb’s mind. A senior vice president at Citibank, she was being a good employee when she visited the financial advisors who changed her life. Citibank was expanding into investment advising and Cobb’s job as a “secret shopper” was to see how other firms were doing it. But after each advisor told her she could already afford to retire, Cobb’s priorities shifted.
For more than 25 years, Cobb had dedicated herself to work in banking, including overseeing a global network of ATMs. It was time for something else. A week after retiring, she was already involved as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)—a judge-appointed volunteer assisting foster children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.
“Changing kids’ lives versus letting people in Belgium have a drive-up ATM instead of a walk-up ATM … there is no comparison,” Cobb said. During the past 12 years, Cobb has worked with 22 kids, helping 15 get adopted and reuniting one with his family. Her longest case was with her from age 8 to 19.
Brad Mattson has lived the life of Silicon Valley dreams, twice taking tech companies public. His success also led him to question the value of the endless push for bigger, faster, and more powerful technology. The result, he said, mainly rewards those who are already big, fast, and powerful, leaving behind the less fortunate.
So for the past half-dozen years, Mattson and wife Vicky, herself a former corporate high-flier, have focused on spreading technology’s benefits further and wider. The two have become mainstays of SCU’s Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI), a business boot camp that helps social entrepreneurs from around the world.
As lead mentors, the couple has spent thousands of hours training other volunteers, designing the curriculum, and looking at possible expansions. The work has been its own reward, they say.
“These people are smart, energetic, capable, and awesome,” Brad Mattson says. “We have loved every minute of it.” Alumni of GSBI include Matt Flannery, founder of Kiva Microfunds, a website that allows participants to make small loans, now totaling in the tens of millions of dollars, to people in developing countries. Other GSBI alumni include entrepreneurs bringing clean water to Zimbabwe, renewable energy to Nicaragua, and low-cost, locally produced sanitary pads to rural Kenya.
|Historian and economist: George Giacomini and Jeannette Garretty
Photo: Adam Hayes
Jeanette Garretty may have whizzed through Santa Clara in just three years, but her time on the Mission campus was only beginning with graduation. Three weeks later, she was back in the classroom, teaching former classmates while she pursued her doctorate in economics at Stanford.
It was good practice for the early part of her career when she was often the youngest in the room and usually one of a handful of women. When she joined Bank of America in 1980, Garretty was one of three women in a department of 38 economists; she went on to become the bank’s chief domestic economist. She now serves as senior vice president at Wells Fargo, where she is renowned for advising high-wealth clients. In 2009, Barron’s magazine named her among the 100 top investment advisors in California (No. 14, to be exact), one of numerous such accolades on her résumé.
“If Santa Clara University had a national bank, we’d make her the CEO,” said Gerri Beasley, vice president of the Alumni Association, in presenting the award.
Despite the demands of career and motherhood, Garretty has been a steadfast supporter of the University, serving on the Board of Regents and the Board of Fellows.
When George Giacomini co-wrote a history of Santa Clara University for the school’s 150th anniversary in 2001, he was struck less by the changes during a century and a half than by the similarities. The themes of education and service made explicit in the 1990s motto “competence, conscience, and compassion” were "as true in the 1890s as they are now," he said.
“Yes, the buildings look better, the place has gotten a lot bigger, and there are a lot more faculty,” he said. “But the heart of the place is relatively unchanged.”
And Giacomini would know. Between four years as an undergraduate and five decades as a beloved professor, Giacomini has been around for a third of SCU history. That era draws to an end soon, though. The 75-year-old scholar and educator says 2009–10 will be his last one teaching, a conclusion he reached when he found himself recently pining for time off. It was a rare moment for someone who only ever wanted to teach.
His name will live on though, not least because of the scholarship endowed in his name by Bob LaMonte ’68, one of the country’s most successful sports agents. LaMonte credits Giacomini for opening his eyes as a student.
“Your good nature, passion for your subject, and ability to connect with others truly makes you a Santa Clara treasure,” said Chancellor Paul Locatelli, S.J. ’60, presenting the award to Giacomini, “a great teacher, a great teller of stories, a great person of faith, and a great friend.”
—Sam Scott ’96
Photo: Charles Barry
Diane Le MBA ’96 knows too well the helplessness of watching a loved one fight cancer. She still has vivid memories of being in the hospital room during her mother’s losing bout with the disease a decade ago. So after uterine cancer struck her sister-in-law, Frances Nguyen, in 2006, Le was quick to throw herself into Nguyen’s mission to make something good of her struggle—by organizing a foundation dedicated to battling gynecological cancer in the women’s native Vietnam.
“Frances would say, ‘Gosh, if I feel this bad, and I am in the best care in the Bay Area yet I still feel lonely and helpless, imagine how someone in a less-developed country would feel,’” Le says.
The women set their sights on sending American doctors to take part in a cancer conference at one of Ho Chi Minh City’s largest women’s hospitals in October 2008. For the months leading up to the conference, Le worked days as a manager at Hewlett-Packard and then went home to spend hours hammering out the logistics of bringing American oncologists and medical equipment to Vietnam. For a fundraising auction and gala at the conference, she also rounded up art from as far away as France.
The women’s greatest ally was Jeffrey Stern, a surgeon at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley who had revived Nguyen’s bleak prospects after one doctor had given her three to six months to live without treatment. Stern, who had taken a similar mission to China, recruited other Bay Area experts to participate.
Seven doctors, including Stern, made the trip to teach and lecture in Vietnam. Surgeons performed 10 televised surgeries in two days at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. The doctors also advised their Vietnamese peers on management and diagnosis of cancers. More than 700 doctors from all over Vietnam attended.
|Televised surgery: Jeffrey Stern operates on a cancer patient at Tu Du Hospital.
Photo: Courtesy Diane Le
The lessons were on more than just technical improvements. All the U.S. doctors turned down sightseeing tours so they could have follow-up visits with their patients—a postsurgery involvement that is normal for American doctors but rarer in Vietnam.
Le says she is seeing the fruits of her labors unfold. The Nguyen Foundation has been talking to Vietnamese officials about helping establish a modern cancer center in the country. And this fall, the women and Stern are returning for another conference with a new group of doctors. For Le, it’s a deeply personal satisfaction.
“I feel like I am honoring my mother,” she says.
—Sam Scott ’96