Life of Service

Remembering Lorna Christine Panelli and how she made the Mission campus a better place.

Life of Service
The University recognized Lorna Panelli’s dedication with an honorary degree.

Always an advocate for those less fortunate, Lorna Christine Panelli once said, “When you meet God, he won’t ask what kind of car you drove, but rather how many people did you help get to where they needed to go.” Panelli became SCU family through marriage. Lucky us. She made the Mission campus a better place through good works stretching from the arts to athletics.

Santa Clara did not award degrees to women when Lorna went to college. She attended San Jose State, and later UC Santa Cruz. But her marriage to future SCU Trustee and California Supreme Court Justice Ed Panelli ’53, J.D. ’55 on Oct. 27, 1956, formed a family bond with the University. Ed, after all, was literally born on campus.

While Lorna taught nutrition and food service courses at West Valley College in Saratoga, she also gave back to her many adopted communities—working with Services for Brain Injury, Uplift Family Services, and St. Francis Women’s Club.

At SCU, Lorna advocated for the de Saisset Museum as a member of its advisory board and was a part of the Kenna Club, a group building the University’s connection to neighbors, friends, and families. Lorna and Ed were among the co-founders of the Bronco Bench Foundation, which has raised millions to support student-athletes. She also served the Campaign for Santa Clara, as a member of the campaign cabinet for the effort to raise $1 billion toward scholarships, student programs, and more.

In 2018, the University recognized Lorna for her gracious service—and she became “Doctor” Panelli as SCU pre- sented her with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Service, Honoris Causa. Those closest to her know of Lorna’s keen sense of humor, quick wit, and wonderful storytelling.

She and Ed shared adventures and built an enduring collaboration for more than 62 years.

Lorna passed away peacefully at home on Palm Sunday, April 14, at age 84 after a two-year battle with cancer. She is survived by Ed and their three sons, Tom ’80, Jeff ’82, and Michael; and grandchildren Joey, Elisa, Clara, and Makiko. Nieces and nephews include Natalee ’81 and Patricia Ernstrom ’88, Alex ’91, and Patrick Panelli.

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