Bannan Rebrand

Santa Clara’s historic home for alumni to honor Louis I. Bannan, S.J., and the entire Bannan family, who’ve sent 200 members to SCU over 100 years.

Cloie von Massenhausen ’19 says her friends like to tease that at Santa Clara, it would be far too easy for her to go on a date with a cousin without knowing it. They may be joking, but it’s not the craziest assessment given von Massenhausen’s lineage.

You see, she is a sapling in the Bannan family tree, whose roots stretch deep into Santa Clara University history. Nearly 200 Bannans have come here in the past 100 years, since Tom Bannan ’23—that’s 1923—went against his father’s wishes to attend the University of California at Berkeley and enrolled at Santa Clara instead.

Von Massenhausen is a descendant of Tom’s on her mother’s side. And, jokes aside, she gets a kick out of the very real possibility that she’ll meet yet another long-lost cousin on campus tomorrow.

Cousins like Berk Harvey ’21, a member of the men’s golf team whose mother’s father was Buck Bannan ’62 (who, in turn, was Tom’s nephew)­—for whom an SCU endowed alumni family scholarship is named.

“I walked by a building every day of my freshman year that shared my first name—Berchman Bannan Hall, named for my grandfather,” he says. “It gave me insight into how influential Santa Clara was to my family and how my family was influential to Santa Clara.”

And though Bannan Hall, built in 1973, has come down in recent months to make way for the new STEM complex, Bannan kin haven’t had to wait long to see the name pop up elsewhere on campus.

On March 23, 2019, the Donohoe Alumni House was officially renamed the Bannan Alumni House. “Seeing that name everywhere is not scary or intimidating,” Harvey says. “It gives me something to work for. It’s a reminder to work hard to try to keep my family’s legacy alive.”

The beginning of something wonderful: Catherine Donohoe donated $40,000 to build the infirmary. Here she is with then-SCU President Zacheus Maher, S.J., and Archbishop of San Francisco Edward Hanna.

House History

The Alumni House, situated kitty-corner from Benson Center in the old end of campus near the Mission Church and gardens, was built in 1925 as the campus infirmary. Catherine Donohoe donated $40,000 to build the infirmary in honor of her parents, James and Rose Donohoe. Her older brother, Frederick, had attended the school, then all-male and called Santa Clara College, in 1877 and the family became longtime benefactors.

A photo of the unveiling of the Donohoe cornerstone in 1925 shows the petite, stern-faced Catherine barely reaching the shoulders of then-SCU President Zacheus Maher, S.J., and Archbishop of San Francisco Edward Hanna. The windowsills on the first floor of the exposed brick building tower over her head.

In addition to accommodations for 30 patients, the infirmary contained an apothecary’s shop, chapel, rooftop garden, and sunbaths, widely used at the time to alleviate symptoms of tuberculosis.

After 50 years, infirmary operations moved to the newly built Cowell Health Center. Department heads promptly jockeyed for the covetable office space in the four-story Donohoe building and Louis I. Bannan, S.J., the assistant to the university president for alumni relations, ultimately prevailed.

In 1975, the Alumni Association moved from cramped quarters in Varsi into Donohoe with other University departments, including the Office Communications and Marketing (now University Marketing and Communications). Following top to bottom renovations approved by University President Paul Locatelli, S.J. ’60 in 2009, all other departments moved out and Donohoe became the dedicated Alumni House. It’s a fitting home at the heart of campus.

Bronco Advocate: Coverage of the Fr. Louis Bannan‘s work on behalf of alumni in the Feb. 10, 1977 edition of The Santa Clara. / Courtesy SCU Archives

In 2019, to mark 100 years since the first Bannan stepped foot onto Santa Clara’s campus, Alumni Relations staff appealed and won approval to change the building’s name once more. Kathy Kale ’86, assistant vice president for Alumni Relations, is quick to point out that the Donohoe name isn’t being erased. “To continue honoring them, we’re going to name the Alumni House conference room the Donohoe Boardroom.”

As for why the specific name change, Kale says it’s a fitting testament to Fr. Bannan—affectionately called Fr. Lou by generations of Broncos—who championed Alumni Relations in his 40 years here. “Fr. Lou was a physical representation of how important alumni are to Santa Clara.”

Bannan Birthright

The Bannans are widely recognized as a tight-knit family of hardworking, humble tinkerers. It’s a reputation that started with Irish immigrant and locomotive engineer Patrick Bannan, who moved his family from Chicago to San Francisco just after the Civil War. His youngest son, Philip, bought a machine shop in the City called Pacific Gear and Tool Works. The shop burned down in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but Philip refused to fold and rebuilt soon after.

In a 1986 Santa Clara Magazine profile on Philip’s eldest son Tom Bannan (“Perspectives of a Patriarch”), Tom sums up his familial philosophy of giving back with Philip’s words following the earthquake: “After the fire, the realization came to me that an act of God or of nature can wipe out the efforts of a human being. There is more to life than making money.”

Philip and Teresa Bannan had 10 children. Five of the six Bannan boys followed in their father’s footsteps and became engineers. At the start of the Great Depression, the Bannans bought Western Gear, which produced everything from helicopter parts to artificial kidneys. Over the decades of growing their company to 4,000 employees, the family contributed millions to build up Santa Clara’s School of Engineering and fund various scholarships. Bannan Engineering Labs were built in 1960, Bannan Hall in 1973, and the Thomas J. Bannan Engineering Building opened in 1985.

Louis I. Bannan was the only son who didn’t attend Santa Clara. He entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Los Gatos after high school, was ordained in 1944, and earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in education and philosophy at Gonzaga University. After stints at his old high school, St. Ignatius in San Francisco, and Loyola Marymount University, Fr. Lou came to teach and live at Santa Clara.

Maria von Massenhausen ’87, Cloie’s mother, remembers her time on campus with her great uncle fondly. “He worked in the alumni office and was a teacher and lived in the dorms. He’d go to my friends’ intramural games and bring pizza,” she says. “He was a source of counsel when things didn’t go the way I hoped. I didn’t get into study abroad the first time I applied and he was the person I felt comfortable crying to.”

Tkb And Plb Loyola Lodge 1935
 Philip and Teresa Bannan at Loyola Lodge in 1935. His experience in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake created the family motto. / Courtesy the Bannan Family

Fr. Lou was a huge advocate of building up alumni relations. He established an endowed alumni family scholarship in the 1970s, writing in the Santa Clara Today alumni newspaper, “The general thrust of [Alumni Relations] has been to sustain and cultivate the family spirit that has been a notable tradition of the University.”

Von Massenhausen serves as the Alumni Relations’ associate director of chapters and groups. While walking on campus recently past the construction site of the former trio of Bannan buildings, she says, “I didn’t expect to get emotional but I really was. I was thinking of my cousins whose grandfathers’ names were on the buildings. That’s a piece of you, you know? So I think it’s really neat that this Alumni House, which signifies the continuation of the relationship we all have with the University, will have our name on it.”

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