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June 2017

Sobrato Campus rendering 053017

Sobrato Campus rendering 053017

$30 Million Gift from the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation

Gift will support collaborative, interdisciplinary STEM education by helping build the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation

The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation has made its largest gift ever to SCU: $30 million to support the new Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation

SANTA CLARA, Calif., June 2, 2017—The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation of Los Angeles, which has supported Santa Clara University for 50 years, has made its largest gift ever to SCU: $30 million to support a new complex for transformational education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies.

The gift from the Leavey Foundation is the second largest in University history. It will be used to help build the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation at SCU, a “campus within a campus” designed to foster creative and collaborative approaches to teaching and learning in the STEM disciplines. 

“The Leavey Foundation has helped Santa Clara University achieve some of the most significant growth milestones in its history,” said Michael E. Engh, S.J., president of Santa Clara University. “We are honored that the foundation has chosen to make this generous award to help fuel our next level of excellence in the field of STEM education. This gift will help ensure our students are equipped to meet the needs of 21st century employers like our neighbors and partners in Silicon Valley.”

“Santa Clara University’s emphasis on experiential, problem-based learning harnesses the strength of cross-disciplinary teams with the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley,” said SCU Provost Dennis Jacobs. “Our Jesuit values challenge students to think critically about the world around them and develop imaginative solutions to address society’s most urgent challenges. At the same time, Santa Clara students learn to examine the ethical and societal implications—such as privacy concerns or environmental impact—that often accompany the exciting scientific discoveries and technological advancements emerging from Silicon Valley.”
The Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation, announced in January with a $100 million lead gift from John A. ’60 and Susan Sobrato, will create opportunities for students to engage in innovative, high-impact, team-based projects. When complete, the Sobrato Campus will promote cross-disciplinary opportunities in areas such as neuroscience, bioengineering, sustainability, and environmental science. It also will help enable Santa Clara University to increase its undergraduate enrollment by 600 students, with a significant proportion in STEM-related fields.

“The gift recognizes the important role Santa Clara University plays in meeting the needs of Silicon Valley,” said Jim Lyons, vice president for University Relations.

 About the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation

Thomas E. Leavey '22 headshot

The Leavey Foundation was established in 1952 by the late Thomas E. Leavey—who attended Santa Clara University from 1918 to 1920 and later co-founded Farmers Insurance Group—and his wife, Dorothy E. Leavey.

Mrs. Leavey took over responsibility for the family foundation after Mr. Leavey’s death in 1980, and the couple’s daughter, Kathleen McCarthy Kostlan, assumed the chair after her mother’s death in 1998.  

“My family has long supported the high caliber of Jesuit, Catholic education provided by Santa Clara University, which produces graduates with not only excellent critical thinking skills but also the moral compass to put them to use for the greater good of the world around them,” said Kostlan. “We are pleased to help support the University’s next phase of growth, with its increased focus on STEM education and greater integration with Silicon Valley.”

The foundation created by the Leaveys, both devout Catholics, has donated more than $100 million to institutions and charities, including more than $39 million to SCU:

  • $15 million to upgrade the athletics facility that became Leavey Center
  • $10 million in various scholarship and endowment funds
  • $7 million to the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Leadership Endowment
  • $5 million to endow the Leavey School of Business
  • $1 million as a “challenge grant” in 2013 to spur SCU alumni to give back to their alma mater
  • $1 million to the Jesuit Residence Building Fund
  • $1 million to the Los Angeles Catholic High School Scholarship Fund

The foundation also has provided substantial financial support to the University of Southern California for the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Honors Hall ($30 million) and Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Library ($9 million); to the Los Angeles Archdiocese for a new cathedral ($10 million); and to the Assistance League in Hollywood for the Dorothy E. Leavey Family Resource Center ($8 million). Other awards include $2 million to Loyola Marymount University, $1 million to Saint Paul the Apostle Church, $500,000 to Homeboy Industries, and $250,000 to Sisters of Nazareth of Los Angeles. The foundation also has provided grants and scholarships to numerous individuals, including children of employees of Farmers Group.

About the Leavey family

Thomas Leavey was born in 1897 in Humboldt County, California, to Irish immigrant parents, Michael J. and Rose Leavey. When his mother died shortly after his birth, Leavey and his two brothers were raised by his father on the family dairy ranch near Blue Lake, California. He attended Santa Clara University and then Georgetown Law School.

Leavey Family portrait

Leavey Family portrait

While visiting Los Angeles, a fellow student introduced Leavey to his future wife, Dorothy Risley, who had grown up in Cleveland; Chicago; and Butte, Montana, and was working as a stenographer. She gave up her career to devote her life to the husband she married in 1930; to their philanthropic causes; and to their children, Dorothy Therese and Kathleen. Mrs. Leavey, who had graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart boarding school, received an honorary doctorate in education from Santa Clara University in 1989.

After briefly working for the Los Angeles Farm Loan Association, Leavey, in 1928, hit upon the idea of creating an auto insurance company for farmers, who posed less risk to insurers than their urban counterparts. The company, Farmers Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange, now Farmers Group, Inc., grew steadily under his leadership to become a multibillion-dollar company at the time of his retirement in 1978. Leavey received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from SCU in 1964.  He served as a founding member of the Board of Regents of SCU from 1959 to 1965, and on the University’s Board of Trustees from 1967 to 1971.
The Leavey’s son-in-law, J. Thomas McCarthy, the late husband of Kathleen, served as an SCU regent from 1978 to 1987, and as a trustee from 1987 to 1990. The couple’s granddaughter Kathleen McCarthy Duncan currently serves on the University’s Board of Regents. Their grandson Michael McCarthy graduated from SCU in 1980 and served as a regent and trustee as well.

Tragically, the couple’s daughter Dorothy Therese Lemons was killed in a car accident in 1979, and exactly a year later Mr. Leavey passed away.

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 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry, and theology; and law degrees and engineering doctoral degrees. 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
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121

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The $30 million gift from the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation will help build the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation, depicted in this artist's rendering.