A million to one

SCU alumni came through in record numbers to win a $1 million gift for the University.

Throughout the year Anton L. V. Avanceña ’12, like many Santa Clara University alumni, had received emails from SCU updating the progress toward a $1 million gift—the Leavey Challenge. With each email, a gauge inched closer to the ultimate goal of 9,000 undergraduate alumni donations.

“Although I just graduated, I always promised myself to give back, primarily because I received a very generous grant to attend SCU,” he said. “The Leavey Challenge was a great opportunity to do so.”

The June 30 deadline was nearly here when Avanceña made his gift through an email that came during the final week of the Challenge. With the gauge still unfilled, he thought, “We are not going to reach [the goal]. Nine thousand is a lot of donations.”

So the public health major was a bit surprised when he received a call informing him that not only had SCU reached that lofty goal, but also he was the 9,000th donor.

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Number 9,000: Anton L. V. Avanceña ’12. Photo by Eric Do


In what was a yearlong effort from SCU’s undergraduate alumni, Santa Clara University reached a new milestone in giving. For the first time in the University’s history, more than 9,000 alumni made a gift. This goal was made even more special by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, which donated $1 million to the Santa Clara Fund for hitting this target.

“The Leavey Foundation hopes that this successful response to its Challenge serves as an igniter causing alumni to increase their giving participation rate year after year,” said Louis Castruccio ’60, an SCU trustee and board member of the Leavey Foundation. “This will bring not only added financial support but, perhaps more important, the many other benefits flowing from broad, strong, and persevering alumni financial support.”

Avanceña’s story shows one of the benefits of alumni support made real. He grew up in the Philippines and transferred to SCU for his final two years of college from Ateneo de Manila University, a Jesuit university in Manila.

Financial aid helped cover his tuition and living expenses at SCU, and a grant from the Santa Clara Fund helped make an immersion trip to Peru possible. It was in Peru, while working at a parish serving a poor community, that Avanceña came to the realization of “how similar poverty, hunger, and injustice looks, wherever you are.”


The fact that the Santa Clara Fund, which played such an important part in his education, received the donation from the Leavey Challenge was important to Avanceña in order to “help a lot of students like myself attend this awesome school we call SCU.”

Avanceña directed his gift to the Fund, which provides scholarships to students as well as grants for immersion trips, student research, and other student-led projects.

Now Avanceña works with the Santa Clara County Mental Health Department and the California Department of Public Health. He’s been accepted into U.C. San Francisco’s master’s program in global health.

For the recent grad it’s the next step on a globe-trotting journey that has included a few destinations made possible from a group he just recently joined—donors to Santa Clara University.

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