Santa Clara University

SCU Today

Back to Blog

Santa Clara University honors 20 years of leadership from departing President Paul Locatelli, S.J.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., October 20 -- In an evening filled with laughter and nostalgia, the Santa Clara University community gathered Friday night to honor the tenure of President Paul Locatelli S.J., and his 20 years of service to the university he so profoundly shaped.

About 850 alumni, faculty, students, staff and admirers began their evening at a reception at the Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library. They were there to toast, honor, and send off Locatelli, who in January will take on worldwide responsibilities as Secretary for Higher Education for the Society of Jesus in Rome.

Locatelli, 70, became president of Santa Clara University in 1988 and is the longest serving president at the University. Previously, he was SCU's academic vice president and associate dean of the Leavey School of Business, as well as an accounting department faculty member. His departure follows a tremendously prosperous 20 years during which the University evolved into one of the preeminent Jesuit, Catholic universities in the country.

"Your legacy at Santa Clara is long and deep," said Locatelli's recently selected successor, Michael Engh, S.J.

The evening, which continued at a dinner at the Pat Malley Fitness and Recreation Center, featured a video tribute to Locatelli's presidency. Many speakers focused on his dedication to the university, his outreach to the community and world at large, and his emphasis on infusing social justice and reflection into the lives of students.

Silicon Valley legend and SCU Trustee Regis McKenna said Locatelli turned the university from a "closed" and "proprietary" institution 20 years ago to one more open and engaged with its surrounding community. "Almost from day one, he began tearing down the walls," he said.

"This did become a place where Jesuits spoke to important issues," said Gerdenio 'Sonny' Manuel, Ph.D., S.J., the rector of Santa Clara University's Jesuit Community.

Jennifer Moody, a 2007 SCU graduate and former student body president, said that she learned at SCU the Jesuit art of reflection. "Every situation, small or large, I learned to reflect on that -- what can I gain from it, what can someone else gain from it, where can I take that to another level, and give back even more than I have in this situation," she said.

During his four terms as President, SCU's endowment grew tenfold from $77 million in 1988 to approximately $700 million in June 2007. Facility expansion included the construction of new residence halls, the learning commons, technology centre and library, the arts and sciences building, a music and dance building, the new Jesuit residence, the business school, the baseball stadium, new parking structure, a new Jesuit residence, and the fitness center and the doubling of the alumni science building.

Locatelli, who received a long and thunderous standing ovation Friday, used the occasion to thank donors, staff, faculty, elected officials, community members, and students who contributed to his successful tenure. "No one person could do all that we have done," he said.

Nearly 200 donors made gifts totaling more than $14 million in special honor of Locatelli's presidency. Vice President of University Relations Jim Purcell showed a rendering of a future Paul Locatelli S.J., Student Activity Center, which was made possible by a $7 million gift from Mark and Mary, '84, Mathews Stevens.

Tita Crilly Diepenbrock, the widow of James Diepenbrock, '51, donated one of only 360 sets of the 7-volume St. John's Heritage Bible, a replica of the first Bible to be handwritten and hand-illuminated in over 500 years.

A second video tribute Friday night focused on Locatelli as a priest and as a person, especially his devotion to the core values he helped inculcate at Santa Clara: competence, conscience, and compassion.

"He really is contemplative, but he is also decisive and ethical and compassionate, and he really does embody the three C's," said Kathy Kale, executive director of the alumni association.

Close allies revealed other lesser-known traits that Locatelli will take with him to Rome. For instance, Board of Fellows member Mary Ellen Fox praised Locatelli's photography and shopping skills.

Locatelli's niece Dr. Lynn Locatelli celebrated her uncle's close family ties to his two brothers and their families, sand shared photos that included some of his late parents, Marie and Vincent.

Others in the video mentioned his array of personal skills, such as cooking.

Theatre and dance associate professor Michael Zampelli, Ph.D., S.J., noted that Locatelli makes a mean risotto, while San Jose Bishop Patrick McGrath said Locatelli is "the only person I invited to my home for dinner and then asked him to bring the food, and to cook it."

Locatelli's admirers are coming to terms with his leaving. Aldo Billingslea, associate professor in the theatre and dance department, mused, "You have a great resource; you are not supposed to keep it to yourself, you're supposed to share it."

Sociology professor Marilyn Fernandez, Ph.D., reminded Locatelli, "Don't forget, this will always be your home."

View a slide show and video tribute to Fr. Locatelli

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California's Silicon Valley, offers its 8,685 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master's universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact: Deepa Arora - 408-554-5125;

Tags: locatelli

Printer-friendly format