Those Who Can

From the California Supreme Court to Santa Clara’s Co-op, from gang-ridden neighborhoods of Gilroy to elementary school classrooms in Redwood City, these Broncos have made an impact. They were recognized at the 2011 Alumni Association Awards, presented April 30.
Paul L. Locatelli , S. J . Award
Edward and Lorna Panelli
Supreme generosity: Edward and Lorna
Panelli with Chancellor William Rewak, S.J.
Photo by Charles Barry.

A noted legal expert and former California Supreme Court justice, Ed Panelli and his wife, Lorna, have been part of the life of the University for many years, and they are the proud parents of two Broncos. Over the years, the Panellis have been generous supporters of the University’s mission, giving of their time, energy, and expertise. Ed has served for 43 years on the Board of Trustees, including 19 as its chair. He was the first layperson elected, in 1963, and was a member of the search committee that brought Paul Locatelli, S.J. ’60, back to Santa Clara as president in 1988.

Lorna has served on the advisory board of the de Saisset Museum and the board of the Kenna Club, building connections with neighbors, alumni, and friends. The Panellis were among the founders of the Bronco Bench Foundation, which raises millions of dollars each year for scholarships and athletic programs.

The Panellis also enjoyed a special connection with Fr. Locatelli. Shared interests and Italian heritage helped shape a friendship that endured for decades, each becoming a part of the other’s extended family.

Ed and Lorna were with Fr. Locatelli when he learned of his illness last spring, and they supported him through the difficult times after his diagnosis. They feel his loss every day, but also the tremendous legacy he left behind for Santa Clara, a legacy of students who truly embody the values of competence, conscience, and compassion.


Ignatian Award
James P. Conn
James P. Conn ’59 receives the Ignatian
Award from Gerri Beasley ’65. Photo
by Adam Hays.

Service to humanity takes many forms, often quiet, humble, and practical. The youngest of six children in Southern California, Conn attended Santa Clara following in the footsteps of his four older brothers. He graduated with a degree in business, and enjoyed a successful career in corporate finance and investment, eventually becoming chief investment officer for the TransAmerica Corp. in San Francisco.

Conn has supported his community in countless ways, all of them valuable, but many of them not in the public eye. Most visibly, he devotes his time to the St. Francis Center in Redwood City, serving as an endowment trustee and on the board of directors. The financial expertise also comes in handy during the many other hours Conn spends at the center as a math tutor working with students—and their parents, who study side by side with their children to earn GEDs and improve opportunities to provide for their families.

To support scholarships and education in California, Conn is a trustee of the San Francisco-based Robert S. and Helen Pfeiffer Odell Fund. And in 1998, he helped found the BASIC Fund—Bay Area Scholarships for Inner City Children—which pays partial tuition for low-income students in kindergarten through 8th grade to attend private schools. Today the fund has grown to help more than 5,000 students at over 300 Bay Area schools, many of them also Catholic schools. He has been a supporter of Santa Clara and the Alumni Association for years, as have his two sons, both SCU graduates.

Education, he says, is the great equalizer. It gives everyone a chance. And Conn has dedicated his service to advancing opportunities for others to get ahead, to overcome adversity, and have those chances.


Ignation Award
Brian Hennessy
Brian Hennessy ’00, J.D. ’03 receives the
Ignatian Award from Gerri Beasley ’65.
Photo by Adam Hays.

Brian Hennessy had already overcome plenty of obstacles to succeed in school and begin a successful career as a lawyer. Since leaving the Santa Clara campus, he has faced down even more serious challenges—ones that have changed not just his own life, but the lives of countless others for generations to come.

A short time after graduating from law school, Hennessy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was not his first brush with the disease, which also claimed his best friend and fellow Bronco Dodge Ackerman ’02 at the age of 22.

Where others might begin to question or doubt, Hennessey found clarity. He says, “Cancer helped to change me. I had a mission I hadn’t yet realized.”

He founded the Council of Goodness, with the objective of teaching through action. Students who join the council pledge 100 hours of community service each year for all four years of high school and make a commitment to return and mentor and support one other student. But before that, they focus on service inward to themselves. Hennessy’s methods of meditation and self-evaluation would be familiar to St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose own spiritual exercises have inspired growth and reflection for centuries.

As for Hennessy’s own story: He grew up poor, in Gilroy, surrounded by gangs, crime, and violence. He was provided the opportunity to change, thanks to a partial scholarship to attend Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose. That was made possible, he says, by his father, who pushed him to succeed academically—and who, as a railroad foreman, literally laid the track that connected their troubled neighborhood to San Jose.

Getting to and from school meant long days and plenty of hard work. His scholarship, though generous, didn’t cover all of his costs, so Hennessy worked at the Gilroy Outlets to help with money for family and school. But after fighting cancer, Hennessy realized that his life was about more than just “getting out” himself. He needed to help others find their way out of difficult situations and set the goals to make a better life possible.

The Council of Goodness is in its fourth year now, with more than 30 student members. Brian Hennessy is now cancer-free.





Louis I. Bannan, S. J. Award
Becky Villarreal
Becky Villarreal receives the Bannan
Award. Photo by Adam Hays.

The story begins at the Bronco Corral, or the Co-op as it was more commonly known, a popular hangout thanks to its soda fountain, snooker table, and the company. In September of 1948, Becky Villarreal, a recent graduate of Santa Clara High School, came to work at the Co-op, and—as some members of the Class of ’56 attested—soon ran it single-handledly, teaching social etiquette, disciplining offenders, and dispensing advice—and credit.
As Villarreal moved from the Co-op to the bookstore to the Orradre Library and more recently into retirement, she became an integral member of the Santa Clara community. She remembers every name, keeping connections alive with alumni over several decades, greeting their children and grandchildren as they join the Bronco family.

Becky Villarreal
The pause that refreshes: Becky
 dispenses Coca-Cola and
advice at the
 Bronco Corral in the ’50s.

Certainly more than 50 years of service as a University employee of great standing is exceptional enough. But since retiring 12 years ago, Villarreal has volunteered more time for the Alumni Association. She is a regular at First Friday Mass and lunch. She’s particularly committed to work at the Homesafe Shelter for women and children, where she’s the “right-hand woman” for Mary Modeste Smoker’81, senior assistant director of the Alumni for Others program.

Her energy serves as a steadfast example for those finding their calling to volunteer as well as those already working beside her in service. She helps people become better people.

From young kids through “her boys” from the Class of ’56, Villarreal bridges any generation gap with a smile. The Class of ’56 unanimously made her an honorary member at its 25th reunion and established the Rebecca J. Villarreal Alumni Scholarship. One recent recipient, Jack Corrigan ’10, is now teaching at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. He shared in a letter to Villarreal that her stories of overseeing SCU’s campus “hotspots” in her day are a particular inspiration to him as he works with those of his students who need a little more discipline. He writes, “I often ask, what would Becky do?” Sarah Stanek mag-bug


post-image Realize the mission: From left, SCU Alumni Association Executive Director Kathy Kale '86, the Hon. Edward '53, J.D. '55 and Lorna Panelli, SCU Alumni Association National President Gerri Beasley '65, SCU President Michael Engh, S.J., Becky Villarreal, James P. Conn '59, and Brian Hennessy '00, J.D. '03. Photo by Adam Hays
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