The University’s largest fundraising effort surpassed its goal by $35 million

When St. Mary’s University publicly announced its largest-ever fundraising campaign in 2017, few believed the goal of raising $130 million was possible. The aspiration was far beyond what anyone at the Catholic and Marianist liberal arts institution had achieved.

But those at St. Mary’s believed in what’s possible.

President Tom Mengler stands in front of St. Louis Hall.
St. Mary’s University President Thomas M. Mengler, J.D.

Four years later, the University not only met its initial goal, but it also surpassed the goal by $35 million to raise $165 million.

On Friday, March 25, St. Mary’s University — San Antonio’s first institution of higher learning and the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest — will celebrate the historic achievement of The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign and its donors at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter.

The immense fundraising effort has received gifts, pledges and grants from nearly 11,500 generous alumni and friends of Catholic, Marianist education.

“With our campaign objectives reached and surpassed, it’s worth asking: Why was The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign so successful? Why did so many contribute in such a major way?” said President Thomas M. Mengler, J.D. “It’s about gratitude. Gratitude to the Marianists for establishing St. Mary’s with their charism of faith, service, family spirit and community and embedding it for these many decades within the fabric of the University.”

Leticia “Leti” Contreras (B.A. ’89) and Thomas “Tom” Contreras (B.B.A. ’88) hope all St. Mary’s students will get to share a sense of togetherness and community through the impact of the campaign. Leti Contreras became chair of the University’s Board of Trustees in 2020, making her the first woman to serve as chair in the history of the University’s governing boards. Tom Contreras chaired the Greehey School of Business portion of the campaign. 

Leti and Tom Contreras enjoy The Pub at St. Mary's University.
From left, Leticia “Leti” Contreras (B.A. ’89) and Thomas “Tom” Contreras (B.B.A. ’88)

The couple also donated $3.2 million to help fund campus spaces for students, the Rattler Golf team and the study of Risk Management.

“Giving is about the students in future generations,” Leti Contreras said. “We’ve had our experience. Now, it’s about giving many other students that same experience.”

The campaign focused on three goals:

  • Promoting a culture of excellence that has led to many new endowed chairs and professorships to foster faculty excellence in teaching, research and service.
  • Deepening and embedding the University’s most distinctive characteristic — its Catholic and Marianist identity. Examples of this include the launch of the Center for Catholic Studies and endowing a student peer-ministry program in the residence halls.
  • Preparing students not only to enjoy successful careers, but also to view their professional lives as vocational journeys.
Bill Greehey in his office
Bill Greehey (B.B.A. ’60)

As the largest donor in the University’s history, Bill Greehey (B.B.A. ’60), honorary co-chair of The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign, has continuously shared his success with his alma mater.

“I got a quality education at St. Mary’s. Plus, we were taught the Marianist values, which served me well in my personal life and business career,” Greehey said. “One of the things the Marianists always say is, ‘You’re never a success unless you share that success with others.’ And the success that I’ve had is really a result of my education at St. Mary’s.”

The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign by the numbers:

  • Total raised: $165 million
  • Amount beyond initial goal: $35 million
  • Number of donors who gave $1 million or more: 39
  • Total number of donors: 11,494
  • New endowed academic positions: 14 (41% increase)
  • New endowed scholarships: 94 (43% increase)
  • New scholarship funding: $58.8 million (90% increase)
  • Funding for innovative labs and classrooms: $13.2 million
  • Funding for the Center for Catholic Studies and Catholic mission: $5.2 million
Lynda Ellis
Lynda Ellis (B.A.S. ’81)

“The St. Mary’s mission is there to provide access to an excellent education for everyone — not just one student, but all,” said Lynda Ellis (B.A.S. ’81), a University Trustee and campaign donor.

Espousing the St. Mary’s family spirit and the value of each contribution, no matter the size, nearly 4,900 donors joined in the campaign through a donation of less than $100. Each gift created a shared sense of community that brought the vision to life.

“St. Mary’s alumni and friends have demonstrated they believe in the possible made real — St. Mary’s University’s mission, vision and greatness,” Mengler said. “I am deeply grateful.”

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