We’ll take it

All in for SCU! And note that from a mastodon tusk to some of the first aircraft ever built, SCU has received some incredible, and incredibly odd, gifts.

There’s a buzz in the air today: For the Day of Giving, it’s All in for SCU! On the line is a $500,000 challenge gift if 4,000 people donate to the University today. And has been noted, any cash gift to any area of campus counts.

So if you haven’t made a donation today, join in the Day of Giving here. You’ll not only be helping SCU win a half-million dollars, you’ll be joining the long, proud, and at times unique history of Bronco giving.

And if you make that gift to Santa Clara Magazine, you’ll earn our eternal gratitude. (Though, actually, we think there are myriad cool programs at Santa Clara, which is why we like telling stories about this place.)


But what happens when an alumnus gives a mounted stag’s head? Nobody wants to look a gift critter in the mouth. But Santa Clara has received its fair share of unusual gifts over the years—some with symbolic significance and some truly unexpected. Here is just a sample of the offerings.

Md 1503 Musket
A surviving member of the “Stanford Armory.” Photo by Charles Barry

Muzzleloaders: In 1863, Gov. Leland Stanford gave Santa Clara College 40 Civil War-era muskets for the senior cadets, along with “accoutrements and side-arms and camp and garrison equipage.” As the student soldiers paraded down The Alameda in full dress, one envious classmate dubbed them “invincibles in peace, and invisibles in war.”

The center of campus: Long before the Abby Sobrato Mall became one of the centerpieces of campus, Santa Clara president Burchard Villiger, S.J., had given the land in front of the church to the town of Santa Clara for a public park. In 1876, the town council decided to abandon the plaza in favor of another location and, in a fit of persnicketiness, didn’t give the land back. Fears of squatters settling in front of the Mission spread among the faculty, but Joseph Donohoe, a San Francisco banker, saved the day. His generous donation of $6,050 allowed the College to buy the property back. Donohoe also founded the Nobili medal the same year.

Gifts from the sea: During the 1892–93 academic year, Mr. and Mrs. John Bergin gifted a “box of beautiful shells from the Gulf of California” to the College. It is unknown whether they were related to Thomas I. Bergin 1857, the first graduate of Santa Clara and the first recipient of a bachelor’s degree in California, and the namesake of the Bergin Legacy Society.

Mastodon tusk: In 1894–95, Santa Clara received a portion of a mastodon’s tusk from the late Lt. Jas. A. Turner, U.S. Marine Corps. It is, apparently, one of the few vestiges of the last ice age owned by the University.

A mounted stag’s head: Records show this gift came from Mr. Neil Friel, of Ferndale, California, in 1901. Alas, a search through the archives failed to turn up this taxidermic prize.

Seeds of change: Not long after the turn of the century, SCU received a package from William J. Wynn and Edward J. Livernash of the U.S. House of Representatives. Along with their donation of government publications, the august statesmen included “packages of various seeds.”

Md 1503 Bell
King Alfonso’s bell. Photo from SCU Archives

The Mission bell: In 1929, Santa Clara offered thanks “to His Majesty, Alfonso XIII, King of Spain,” for the donation of a bell hung in the Mission tower. The damage of two of the original Mission bells in the 1927 fire prompted his gift. “Bells, next to radios, make the sounds you’ll hear most frequently [on the Santa Clara campus],” opined a student essayist.

Aeroplanes: The heirs of the late professor John J. Montgomery gave two of his original “aeroplanes,” in addition to valuable documents relating to the early research of Professor Montgomery in the field of aviation. These important artifacts were in turn passed to the Smithsonian Institution.

100 orchids and a peacock: We’ll see your partridge in a pear tree and raise you, thanks to this generous donation from Dr. J. Franklin Smith of Los Altos. Dr. Smith had previously given the University two peafowl. Now the avian females had a companion.

Two sacks of onions: During the early years of World War II, the Sisters of St. Mary’s Convent, Gilroy, sent these rations north to the Mission Campus.

50 beer steins: E.V. D’Berger gave more than 100 works of art, decorative objects, and furniture to the de Saisset Museum during his lifetime. Among the most unusual of these was a collection of 50 beer steins from Germany, Austria, and Belgium in materials such as ivory, pewter, brass, glass, stoneware, porcelain, and wood.

Md 1503 Opium
An opium scale and pipes. Photo courtesy de Saisset Museum

18 holes and a pasture: The largest gift (in terms of acreage) came in the form of a golf course and cattle ranch. Richard and Jacqueline Wagers donated the Dry Creek Golf Course to SCU when they retired after years of running the pro shop, restaurant, and links themselves. Later, the Wagers also gifted a 1,100-acre cattle ranch to the University.

Opium scale and pipes: Given to the de Saisset Museum from an unknown benefactor. Other items that have found their way into the Museum’s California History Collection include Mission Period bullet molds, a cannonball, and a mummified falcon.

Whale teeth, a bear skin, and stuffed dogs: This is a sampling of artifacts from the travels of Bernard Hubbard, S.J., the famous Alaskan explorer from Santa Clara University who earned the catchy moniker “the Glacier Priest.” One of Fr. Hubbard’s trusted (and taxidermied) canine companions is still on display in the Donohoe Alumni House.

Lg 1503 Dogs
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