Santa Clara University

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After Words

Words simple and profound

By Jim Purcell
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The best part: Jim Purcell in the St. Clare room in the heart of campus
Photo: Charles Barry
A.M.D.G. The first time I wrote those letters on the top of a paper was in September of 1954 as a freshman at St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. For the Greater Glory of God. Little did I know then how much of my life would be shaped by my interaction with Jesuit education.

Eight years later, I am a student in Rome, living at the North American College and attending the Gregorian University, earning a licentiate in sacred theology. Most of my professors are Jesuits, and over the next four years many of them will serve as theological consultants at the Second Vatican Council, while opening my eyes and heart and mind to new ways of understanding my faith and the Church I want to serve.

Fast forward to 1986 and I am the CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Jose. I am trying to figure out how we are going to increase the capacity of our Immigration Counseling program, because the U.S. Congress has just passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Three Jesuits at Santa Clara University—Steve Privett, Sonny Manuel, and Dan Germann—have just started the Eastside Project. Father Dan recruits SCU students to volunteer in our immigration program, and we double its capacity to help people create a new future of hope.

Ten years later, a phone call comes from SCU President Paul Locatelli’s office. He wants to meet with me. He wants to know if I would be interested in the position of vice president of university relations at SCU. I laugh, tell him I am very flattered but that I don’t think so. He insists on a meeting and I agree, having learned in my eight years of Jesuit education that it is not wise to turn down an invitation from a Jesuit.

In our meeting, I thought we would talk a lot about the challenges of fundraising at Santa Clara—challenges that far exceeded anything I had ever attempted in my previous jobs. Instead, in that meeting, Fr. Locatelli talks about his vision of educating men and women of competence, conscience, and compassion. It is a vision that reminds me of my days in Rome and the excitement of the Second Vatican Council and its hopes for the future of the Church. No mention of fundraising.

March 31, 2008: “Wow!” This is the first word—shouted with enthusiasm— that I hear as students pour into the brand new Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library … and the days that follow fill my heart with joy because all the hard work of coordinating a fundraising campaign that resulted in $404 million in pledges and gifts has “paid off ” in so many ways … not just the new facilities, but the enhanced learning and research opportunities they facilitate; not just the millions of dollars, but the relationships with alumni, parents, and friends that will last a lifetime.

Fundraising is really about storytelling—and what a great story we have to tell at Santa Clara. Inviting people to be a part of this story is the best part of my job.

I am now in my 14th year at the University, where I have played a part in educating leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion. The students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends I have met along the way represent the very best of Jesuit education. With Michael Engh, S.J., now at the helm, I am confident that the future for Santa Clara will be as bright as its past.

And now, in some ways, my life seems to be circling back in an interesting way. The Jesuit School of Theology is now part of SCU, and in my new part-time position at SCU I may end up raising money for seminarians and other students of theology for the greater glory of God.

The other part of my new life will be spent with my wonderful wife of 37 years, my children and grandchildren, and terrific friends. To the Jesuits and to all who have been a part of my life at Santa Clara, I say the two most important words my mother ever taught me: Thank you!


Jim Purcell is stepping down from the position of SCU’s vice president for University Relations after 13 years of service. He will continue serving as a part-time consultant to the University.