SCU alum is youngest mayor of San Francisco

Gavin Newsom ’89 was elected mayor in December, 2003 with endorsements from Bill Clinton.

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Gavin Newsom, a 1989 graduate of Santa Clara University, was elected mayor of San Francisco in December, 2003. The 36-year-old former political science major defeated Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez in a runoff election and took office in January. Newsom had received support and endorsements from former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He succeeds Willie Brown and becomes the youngest mayor in the city’s history.

Newsom is a successful entrepreneur who has amassed a $7 million fortune from his PlumpJack food and wine businesses. He was appointed by Mayor Willie Brown to the Parking and Traffic Commission in 1996 and in 1997 to a vacant seat on the Board of Supervisors. He won election to the board in 1998 and was re-elected in 2000 and 2003. As a lawmaker, he made a name for himself with “Care Not Cash,” a ballot measure which would have cut payments to the homeless in favor of services. The measure was approved by voters in Nov. 2002, but it was invalidated by a judicial ruling that only the supervisors can set such welfare policy.

All in the family

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Rick Ruso ’03 is the 31st Bronco in his family

Rick Ruso ’03 claims he was never forced to attend Santa Clara University…even if 30 members of his family before him had gone to SCU.

“My parents were never going to make me go,” he says. “But they always stressed it.”

Ruso graduated in June with a degree in finance, becoming the 31st member of his family to graduate from SCU. The earlier graduates include his parents, Richard M. “Rick” Ruso ’75 and Mary E. “Beth” (Van Dalsem) Ruso ’76.

The 32nd family graduate is already in the pipeline. Ruso’s younger sister, Kristen, is a sophomore majoring in communication.

“It’s a neat feeling to have all four of us a Bronco family,” Ruso says.

The newest graduate and his father shared some SCU experiences: both lived in Dunne Hall, and both took economics from Professor Mario Belotti.

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The younger Ruso played on the SCU tennis team while he was an undergraduate. He and his doubles partner, Chris Lam, were the first nationally ranked doubles team in SCU’s history, ranking 53rd out of 100 teams during his junior year.

The athlete has one year of eligibility as a tennis player, and will play for SCU this season while he attends the Leavey School of Business to work toward an MBA degree.

Ruso’s campus roots stretch back to his great-grandfather, James A. Bacigalupi, class of 1901, who was raised in a house that today is part of the SCU campus. The building now houses the Center for Science, Technology and Society, and sits behind the Arts and Sciences Building.

Ruso says he particularly enjoyed attending the Bronco Bench Endowment Dinner, held each winter for scholarship donors and recipients. Some of the attendees told him stories about his grandfather, Louis Ruso ’48, whom he never knew.

Ruso says he is proud of his family’s connection to the University and proud to be a SCU alum.

“I had an incredible experience and it really shaped who I am today,” he says.

– Larry Sokoloff J.D. ’92

Caring comfort

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Alumna overseeing first pediatric hospice in the nation

For Kathy Nicholson Hull M.A. ’80, becoming the president of George Mark Children’s House Foundation, which is opening the first pediatric hospice in the nation, was no accident. Professional experience as a clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital in Oakland and personal experience with the loss of two brothers prepared Hull for her difficult but important work.

Specializing in health psychology, Hull always had an interest in people’s ability to be proactive with their own health. While working at Children’s Hospital, she attended interdisciplinary team meetings to decide what to do with a child who was dying. Often, she says, there was a sense of failure from the hospital’s perspective when a child died. Hull and some colleagues recognized the need for more choices, more comfort, and ongoing care for patients outside of the hospital.

The hospice, named for her two brothers- George, who died of cancer at age 30, and Mark, who was killed in a car accident at age 16-is “the defining project in my life,” Hull says. The San Leandro hospice, which is scheduled to open in March, will provide an alternative for families with children who have life-threatening illnesses.

Until now, parents of critically ill children have had to choose between staying at the hospital or taking the child home. The hospice can be a transitional step that helps ease some of the burden on families.

Without much psychological support given to her family during her brother George’s death, Hull says that building the hospice has been a healing process for her family, especially with the involvement of her younger brother, John ’76, who, as a civil engineer, has been an advisor to the project.

The hospice has been professionally satisfying to Hull because she has created a model that she hopes other communities and health care providers will follow. George Mark House plans to overcome some of a hospital’s limitations by offering a dining room where families can gain a sense of community and network of support. Additionally, each room will be open to the outside; there is an extra bed for parents or siblings to use; and children will be able to bring their pets.

The focus on providing quality medical care remains, but comfort and psychosocial support for the families of ill children is also important.

Hull, who is married with eight children and three grandchildren, says she is grateful for her “enormously busy life,” which includes her new position on the SCU Board of Regents. Her father, Wilmot “Bill” Nicholson ’36, is also a regent.

Hull grew up in Santa Clara and used to ride her bike to campus on Saturdays with friends. She says being named to the Board of Regents is like coming full-circle. She credits her parents with instilling in her a desire to return something to the community and accept responsibility for the outcome of things-something she is doing at the hospice and at SCU.

For more information on the George Mark Children’s House, call 510-451-1999 or see

– Erin Ryan ’03

Kind of a Big Dill

This pickleball prodigy’s journey from finance to the courts is a power play.

New Tech, New Storytelling Tricks

In his latest book, educator Michael Hernandez ’93 explores alternative ways to teach by embracing digital storytelling.

From the Law to the Page

S. Isabel Choi J.D. ’02 planned on becoming a judge. Now she’s an author with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cinematic Sisters

While sisters Malarie ’14 and Nia Howard ’15 always knew they’d be writers, Santa Clara’s communications department helped them discover their medium.