Defining Moment: St. Mary’s shares gratitude for a mission made real

March 25, 2022

Message by Thomas M. Mengler, J.D., St. Mary’s University President 

President Tom Mengler stands in front of St. Louis Hall.

In this Gold & Blue, you will hear from several generous men and women who helped achieve what so many believed impossible — a fundraising campaign 10 times greater than any prior St. Mary’s University campaign and larger than all previous campaigns combined. I am thankful to those featured here, as well as to the nearly 11,500 other benefactors responsible for our success. 

Few believed raising this kind of money was more than a pipe dream. I vividly recall the evening of Nov. 17, 2017, when more than 500 major benefactors and friends gathered over dinner for what we had called The Big Reveal. In the weeks leading up to the event, there had been a lot of wild guessing on social media about the upcoming announcement. One graduate predicted we were going to restart the University’s long-dormant football program. Another playfully suggested St. Mary’s would soon become “tuition-free.”  

The Big Reveal was a $130 million comprehensive campaign titled The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign. The immediate reaction among those gathered was silence — mostly because the attendees had been served scrumptious food and abundant drink — no clapping … no cheers … just silence. Looking back, I have no doubt the dominant emotion among our 500 guests was stunned disbelief because nothing of this magnitude had ever before been attempted by St. Mary’s. 

“If it had not been for the brothers of St. Mary’s, Charles would have never had any hope of finishing school at all.”

Sally Scholz

The room did not remain quiet for long. We quickly followed the first announcement with a second — St. Mary’s had already raised $104,872,000 or 80% of our campaign goal. The reaction to this reveal was a roomful of audible gasps, followed by enormous applause. 

And so began the four-year public phase of the campaign. Two years later, in November 2019, having surpassed the $130 million goal, we raised the stakes to $150 million. With the campaign’s end this past New Year’s Eve, we achieved a defining moment for St. Mary’s University: $165 million of heartfelt generosity from alumni and friends. 

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? 

First and foremost, 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. Sally Scholz, a campaign donor featured in the magazine, describes why she and her late husband Charles (a 1960 grad) shared their treasure: “If it had not been for the brothers of St. Mary’s, Charles would have never had any hope of finishing school at all.”  

“You’re never a success unless you share that success.”

Bill Greehey

A second reason is captured by the comments of RaSheeda Keir, a more recent alumna who feels a responsibility to pay it forward so that future students can benefit from the same transformative education she received from knowledgeable and caring faculty and staff. Or as Bill Greehey, the largest donor in St. Mary’s history, succinctly remarked, “You’re never a success unless you share that success.” 

Finally, during the campaign we heard from countless benefactors that their gifts were made to help St. Mary’s reach its vision of becoming one of the finest private universities in the Southwest. For these benefactors, their generosity resulted from believing that St. Mary’s is and will continue to be an institution worthy of investment. Trustee and law alumnus Steven Michael Peña Sr. articulates this well: “We’re a small school, but that doesn’t mean we have to have a small impact. … There are tremendous things happening here.”  

For these and other reasons, St. Mary’s alumni and friends have demonstrated they believe in the possible made real — St. Mary’s University’s mission, vision and greatness. I am deeply grateful.

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When Charles T. Barrett Jr. (B.B.A. ’62) decided to enroll at St. Mary’s University, he did so wanting to get back to a school with Marianist teachings.  

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When asked about his defining moment at St. Mary’s University, Antonio “Tony” Sanchez Jr. (B.B.A. ’65, J.D. ’69) paused for a moment before answering, “economics.”  

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John R. Courtney Sr. (B.A. ’61, J.D. ’67) encourages any student looking for a great leadership and educational opportunity to join the Army ROTC at St. Mary’s University.

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Defining Moment: Couple donates to support law student success

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Defining Moment: Couple provides scholarship for those in need

Sally Scholz said her late husband Charles Scholz, would never have been able to get where he did in life without St. Mary's University.

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Defining Moment: D.C. attorney promotes advocacy program

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Defining Moment: Former trustee wants to see programs continue to evolve

Robert "Bob" Elizondo knows to keep up you have to change with the world, and he wants St. Mary's to keep up with technology.

Defining Moment: Gift to help fund innovation center

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Defining Moment: Law alumnus donates to nurture next generation of lawyers

Steven Michael Peña Sr. (J.D. ’94), a partner at Davidson Troilo Ream & Garza, PC in San Antonio, feels law students who underperform are easily overlooked. 

Defining Moment: Law alumnus expresses gratitude for Catholic Intellectual Tradition

The emphasis on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, according to Martin D. Beirne (J.D. ’69), means that St. Mary’s University focuses on developing the whole person, not just handing students a degree.

Defining Moment: Thanks to donor, program prepares first-generation students for law school

Prior to starting at the St. Mary’s University School of Law, first-year J.D. student Majestad Barragan did not know who or what to expect in her classes. 

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