The $1 million question

An SCU alumni win the university’s first-ever challenge grant?

This past fall, SCU was given a challenge: The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, a longtime University supporter, offered $1 million on the condition that 9,000 undergraduate alumni make a gift to SCU before June 30.

The Leavey Challenge is the first major participation grant in SCU’s history. This is the first time a foundation or business has made the kind of big challenge familiar to listeners of public radio: If you put your money up, so will we.

It’s a great opportunity for current students, as the $1 million would go straight into the Santa Clara Fund, which supports Broncos primarily with scholarships but also provides funding for on-campus clubs, student-run events, and study abroad—the kinds of experiences that help make an SCU education special.

“This challenge provides the chance for all alumni to reflect on how important SCU was to each of us,” says Robert J. Finocchio ’73, chairman of SCU’s Board of Trustees. Finocchio speaks as an alumnus, as a member of the SCU faculty (he’s the Dean’s Professor of Management in the Leavey School of Business), and as a business leader. “We have an excellent opportunity to help others have the same experience,” he says.

So, the $1 million question is this: Will 9,000 alumni respond to the challenge? After all, last year a record 8,145 alumni donated—can alumni raise the bar again?


With the deadline approaching and more than 7,800 gifts accounted for, Broncos are making a strong effort to secure $1 million for SCU—but nearly 1,200 alumni still need to join the challenge by giving any amount, to any area on campus, in order to secure this major gift for the University.

Helping the cause, more than 600 alumni, from the classes of ’62 to ’12, have made their first-ever gifts to the University this year. If SCU is going to make the jump to 9,000 alumni donations, this group of first-timers will be an important factor—and will have to grow in the next few weeks.

One of those who stepped up is Christina Brusaca ’05. “I felt the Leavey Challenge would make my gift go further,” she says. “Plus, I started a new job, so I was able to make a contribution.”

Brusaca is a political science grad and a former member of the Associated Student Government here at SCU who is now working for the city of San Francisco. Many of the Broncos giving for the first time this year have used experiences on the Mission Campus to springboard into a career, and the Leavey Challenge was the perfect way to say thanks.

“I had the opportunity to complete two marketing internships at major corporations when I was a sophomore and junior—both from postings that I found on BroncoLink,” says Carrie McDaniel ’09. “I also found a third internship through BroncoLink that led to my first full-time job out of school.” The fact that her individual donation could be boosted by more than $100 if SCU succeeds was just the motivation McDaniel, who now works in the Internet security industry, needed to make her gift. For many first-time donors, the fact that all gifts qualify toward the $1 million goal, regardless of size, is a big incentive.

Nelson Bostrom ’05, J.D. ’08 has cousins applying to Santa Clara and is beginning to feel “more of a legacy” at SCU. “SCU helped raise awareness that people in the world need help and that everyone should take part in helping in as many ways as possible,” he says.

Elizabeth Hatch ’11, who is teaching in Los Angeles while working toward a master’s degree in education there, hopes “that students who attend the University will continue to have their horizons broadened as they grow and learn.”


The challenge is “something to rally around,” says Finocchio. The $1 million grant and all the additional donations it attracts would both make an immediate difference on campus—and would speak volumes to foundations, the media, and others who keep tabs on the portion of alumni giving back to their alma mater. It’s a quick way to gauge how satisfied alumni are with their education.

“Alumni participation in fundraising is perhaps the most important signal to other donors, and even prospective students, that alumni value their experience with the institution,” says Finocchio. “Every donation is an important vote of confidence in SCU.”

For more information about the grant and the Leavey Foundation, and to keep up to date on the Leavey Challenge, visit

Danae Stahlnecker ’15 also contributed to this story.

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