Leo T. McCarthy Center celebrates 20 years

Award co-recipient Clint Reilly, former USF President Fr. Stephen Privett, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and award co-recipient Janet Reilly. PHOTO COURTESY OF DEVLIN SHAND/DREW ALTIZER PHOTOGRAPHY

As wine bottles poured and elegantly dressed attendees casually bid on thousand-dollar auction items, a celebratory atmosphere filled the clubhouse of the prestigious Olympic Club. On March 3, University leadership, faculty, students, and major supporters, along with some of San Francisco’s elite, gathered for the third annual Leo T. McCarthy Center Award Celebration. The invitation-only event not only honored the influential duo of Janet and Clint Reilly with the Center’s Public Service Award, but also marked its 20th anniversary. 

The night featured an array of speakers that reflected on the Center’s mission and impact, which continues the legacy of California’s former Lieutenant Governor and USF alum, Leo T. McCarthy. “My dad instilled in us: It wasn’t if you would help others, it was how you would help others,” said Sharon McCarthy Allen, the eldest of McCarthy’s four children. 

This year’s honorees were Bay Area philanthropists Janet and Clint Reilly. The pair has founded multiple organizations including Bay Scholars, a high school scholarship program for underprivileged students and Clinic by the Bay, a health and medical service clinic exclusively for those uninsured in San Francisco and San Mateo County. 

Among those who made remarks was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who considered McCarthy a mentor, and presented the Reilly’s with the award. “It is fitting to see Leo’s legacy carried on by young people pursuing careers in public service, and doing so by upholding his same strong code of ethics and advancing the cause of justice that he held so dear,” Pelosi said. 

In 2002, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good officially opened, two years after McCarthy first shared with the University his “idea for a center where students would be trained as ethical, public leaders,” said McCarthy Center Senior Director Derick Brown.

Since its inception, various programs have been established in support of the Center’s  community engagement and public service mission. In 2003, the USF in DC program was established and gave students the opportunity to work in full-time internships at the nation’s capitol. Three years later, a similar fellows program was created in Sacramento to provide summer internships at the state capitol. This would extend in 2019, locally, with the San Francisco Fellows. 

Other major programs also include the creation of the Master of Arts in Public Affairs and Urban Affairs and Esther Madriz Diversity Scholars living-learning community. In 2017, USF Votes was launched to primarily register students as well as other USF campus community members to vote. Since then, the organization has registered 17,584 voters, according to the Center. 

Jacqueline Scott Ramos, program manager of Community-Engaged Learning, says with these programs, students are able to get first-hand experience beyond what is being taught in the classrooms. “If we really want to understand change and what resolution looks like on a transformative basis, that happens through community engaged learning,” Ramos said. 

Meanwhile Brown, who became the Center’s Senior Director in 2020, said he looks forward to expanding the Center’s programs. “As we enter our third decade, our goal is to boost the McCarthy Center’s profile and impact externally and internally within USF.” 

Although the Center is an integral part of the University, some, like Ramos, would like to broaden its presence on campus. She said the McCarthy Center is a safe space for students to utilize its resources for positive change. “They have a community that sees them, loves them, and is here to cultivate these spaces where they can flourish and thrive,” said Ramos. 

Miguel Arcayena is a senior politics major and the Foghorn’s news editor. He covers campus breaking news and administrative issues. He can be reached at marcayena@sffoghorn.com.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *