Successful businessman volunteers to help SCU keep graduating men and women of competence, conscience, and compassion.
Robert Peters ’61 answers quickly and firmly when asked why he is taking on a new volunteer challenge for his alma mater: “Because I firmly believe in the Jesuit philosophy of teaching the whole person. Santa Clara exemplified that objective in my day, and it has significantly enriched that essential model over the last forty years.”
In summer 2005, Paul Locatelli, S.J., and the Board of Trustees realized that the Campaign for Santa Clara would reach its goal as planned by the end of 2006, but that the trajectory of donor support for the three major capital improvements (i.e., the Commons and library, the business school, and the Jesuit residence) was slowing at the same time that projected construction costs were increasing, largely due to spiraling costs for materials like concrete and steel.
As of December 31, 2005, the Campaign stood at $343 million pledged or given by more than 36,000 donors, including 20,354 new donors who have contributed $97 million toward the total. The Jesuit Community has contributed $22 million.
To redouble the fund raising effort this year, Locatelli and the Board of Trustees created a new fund-raising committee. They named Bob Peters to the Board and selected him to chair the new committee. Peters was on the SCU Board of Regents from 1995 to 2002, and he served as its chair from July 1999 to June 2002. He is no stranger to capital campaigns, having chaired the successful Bellarmine College Prep campaign in the early ’90s.
“The SCU community has been extremely generous in supporting the various endowments, centers of distinction, and scholarship funding, all of which is highly beneficial and necessary to the long-term operation of the school,” Peters says. “And, thanks to some exceptional donors, the capital projects got off to a great start.” However, the three capital projects have received $80 million against a goal of $132 million, and projected construction costs have increased by $37 million for a total potential shortfall of $89 million.
Together, Locatelli, Peters, and the members of the board have created the Trustee Challenge to spur a final, successful round of giving as the Campaign moves into its last year. At the Trustees’ meeting in late October, the trustees approved a challenge through which all lay trustees will commit to a new round of gifts to the Campaign, above and beyond the $60 million they have already contributed, to address the shortfall. By doing so, they intend to encourage new donors and additional gifts from other current donors during 2006. Between October and December 31, the trustees had made new, challenge-related gifts and pledges of $16 million with assurances of more still to come.
“We need to ensure that SCU has the necessary resources to continue its special brand of meaningful and comprehensive education for many generations to come,” Peters says.
He illustrates the relevance of his belief in SCU by sharing a story from a conversation with a business professor and author from another university, whom he met during a recent wilderness hiking trip in Europe. While on a trek, Peters asked the professor: How do you deal with ethics in your curriculum?
“The professor’s answer was short and to the point: ‘We really don’t. The students who demonstrate ethics don’t need instruction, and instruction won’t help those who don’t appear ethical!’” Peters recalls. “I thought to myself: Wow! Is there any doubt why we must do all in our power to assure that Jesuit education and SCU in particular—as a major influence here in Silicon Valley—endures in an increasingly difficult world?”
Peters has lived in Silicon Valley all of his life except for two years as a U.S. Army Signal Corps officer at the Satellite Communication Agency in Ft. Monmouth, N.J., and two years at Harvard Business School where he earned an MBA in 1965. He spent 10 years working at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International), where he led many consulting projects on the future of communication satellites, cable television, inkjet technology, and telephony. In the ’80s, he held senior positions in a number of start-ups including Sierra Semiconductor (now PMC Sierra), and Cisco Systems where, in 1988, his strategy of increasing the price of Cisco’s first TCP/IP router strengthened the company’s profitability. Since the early ’90s, Peters has been involved primarily in private investing and philanthropy.
“The Campaign is very successful in terms of the contributions to endowments, specific programs, and financial aid to students,” says Peters. “In this last year, we simply have to focus on completing the funding for the library complex, the business school, and the Jesuit residence, all of which are needed immediately.”
When asked about his business success and how that might add value to the Trustee Challenge, he says, “I want to help SCU accomplish its new ‘stretch’ Campaign goals so they can continue to produce their greatest product: graduates with competence, conscience, and compassion.”