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Trustee’s gift builds on a rich legacy at USC

Kathleen Leavey McCarthy reflects on longtime Trojan ties and her family’s commitment to students

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The names of USC Trustee Kathleen Leavey McCarthy ’57 and her family members are immediately recognizable to the USC community. Whether it’s Leavey Library, McCarthy Quad, an endowed faculty chair at the USC Gould School of Law or even a plaque in the Little Galen dining facility, McCarthy and her family have left a lasting imprint on the university.

And they aren’t stopping there.

A $30 million gift from the family’s foundation will establish the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Honors Hall at the new USC Village. When the hall opens in 2017, as many as 600 freshmen honors students will live and learn within its walls.

USC News asked McCarthy about the foundation’s latest gift and her long relationship with USC.

Why did you choose to attend USC?

It was between Stanford and USC, and thankfully, I chose USC. I have to say — and I have said this many times — at my first USC-Stanford football game, I was so glad I was on the USC side. I was so happy at school.

What are some of your fondest memories of your time as a student at USC?

Being named homecoming queen was very exciting — something totally off the wall. You never dream of that kind of thing. Your sorority nominated you for it, so it’s not something you chose to go out and do. That year, the homecoming court was in the Rose Parade because USC went to the Rose Bowl. It was freezing cold that day, and it rained, but it was really fun to ride on a float. I mean, how many times do you get to be in the Rose Parade?

And of course, there were all the friends I made, and I met my late husband when I was a sophomore. He was in law school. A mutual friend introduced us. So that was wonderful. I had a great time.

The foundation’s recent gift will create an exceptional residential environment for USC’s students. Did you live on campus when you were an undergraduate?

Hubbard Hall used to be a freshman dormitory. I lived there. That was a terrific spot on campus. We lived in a big, spacious room with a study room adjoined. There was a dining area downstairs where we ate together. Two new dorms had just been built, and those were the premier places to be at the time. But really, ours was great. It was a terrific experience.

You and your family have given so generously to the university over the years through the foundation. Can you talk a little about the foundation and its mission?

My parents established the foundation in 1952. Both of them were very committed to giving back in any way they could. The foundation was tiny when they began it. It’s gotten much bigger since then. We do a lot of work with higher education, medical institutions and children’s causes. Everything we do through the foundation goes back to their vision and their focus, and I think they would be thrilled and pleased with all we do. I know they would have loved what the foundation is doing at USC now.

What inspired the foundation to dedicate this gift to USC Village?

Residential life is such an important part of the university experience. And that’s one of the ways USC Village is going to make such a difference because it will provide that opportunity for students who want to live on campus and can’t now because there aren’t enough beds.

USC Village is truly a transformative project for the university. It’s going to enhance everything that’s already been done and will be such a special part of campus. We’re very fortunate to be able to do a gift to help start it off.

What has being a USC trustee for nearly 20 years meant to you?

It’s been a fabulous experience, one I never dreamed of. The people who have served on the board and given of their time and talent to the university have been wonderful. It’s been very inspiring to see how dedicated they are. Even though many of them aren’t graduates of the university, they take hold and support it in every way they can. Seeing that over the years has been nothing but a joyful experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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Trustee’s gift builds on a rich legacy at USC

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