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February 2014

Gift from Victor and Julia Vari Distinguishes a Lifetime of Generosity to Santa Clara University

SCU's longest-serving professor and his wife have bequeathed an estimated $8 million of their estate.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 20, 2014 — Capping a lifetime of generosity to Santa Clara University, the University's longest-serving professor and his wife have bequeathed an estimated $8 million of their estate to SCU to fund an endowment for the arts and humanities, to name the arts and sciences building, and to support other special projects.

The generous gift will be the legacy of Dr. Victor B. Vari, who recently retired after teaching Italian and other languages and literature to SCU students since 1946, and his wife Julia Botto Vari. The proceeds — which derive from their life savings as well as inheritances received over their lifetimes — will be used to fund the Dr. Victor B. and Julia Botto Vari Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, including the Vari Italian Studies Initiative, and for the Victor B. and Julia Botto Vari Hall.

"Victor and Julia Vari represent the truest values of this University, in their devotion to nurturing students to their full potential, fostering a culture-rich community, and building the next generation of humanities education," said President Michael Engh, S.J. "We are deeply grateful that they chose to honor us with this gift from the heart."

"Both of us have dedicated our lives to Santa Clara," said Dr. Vari, who retired in 2012 at age 92. "This University has been our lives."

Dr. Vari — whose resume before SCU includes stints as a fencing coach, journalist, actor, radio announcer, military intelligence agent, and elementary school teacher — received his master's degree from Stanford University in 1952 after serving in the Army in World War II. He completed his Ph.D. (summa cum laude) at the University of Madrid in Spain in 1961. He began his academic career as a student teacher at Stanford, moving to SCU in 1946 to teach elementary French. Over the years at SCU, he has taught all levels of Spanish and Italian language, culture, and literature. He was chairman of the Modern Language Department for more than 20 years.

"Santa Clara is very important to me," said Julia. "I married a man whose life was Santa Clara. We loved what we were doing; we loved the students—they were the children we never had. These relationships which extend over these many years continue to give us great pleasure to this day."

The humanities endowment will help build an academic foundation rich in creative exploration and experiential learning, grounded in ethical integrity and social responsibility. The funds could be used for faculty scholarship or program development; awards for undergraduate research, creative work, or experiential learning; international experiences for undergraduates; or other opportunities in the future to advance the College of Arts and Sciences.

"Victor and Julia Vari have been such an integral part of the College for nearly 70 years, it is truly fitting that their names will grace the building that will educate the humanities students of the future," said W. Atom Yee, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Thanks to their boundless contributions, we are a far richer community — in culture, relationships, and values."

Previously, the couple has given about $1.5 million in the form of scholarships in the names of Dr. Vari’s parents, Augusto and Agnese, as well as numerous cash donations during campus appeals. Dr. Vari, along with Murphy Sabatino, was instrumental in building Casa Italiana — a precursor to today's residential learning communities — to integrate the Italian lifestyle and culture with learning.

The planned Vari gift is one of several large gifts from donors committed to or received by SCU in the fiscal year 2013 - 2014, including:

  • a $12 million donation from Ed Dowd, announced Jan. 29, for a new $26 million Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building;
  • a $3 million charitable trust designated for Santa Clara from a mission-aligned donor, largely to support theological studies for ministry and pastoral education of clergy and lay ministers.
  • a $2 million donation from a multigenerational donor family in support of ethics education.
  • a $1 million gift from the Sobrato family for campus beautification in memory of Abby Sobrato.

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 more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, 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

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