Photo courtesy of SCU Archives

Each generation is enriched by the previous one. A legacy is the enrichment we receive from those who have walked before us. When many walk together, great institutions grow and flourish.

Over the years, many have walked together through the Mission Gardens of Santa Clara; Fathers Joseph Alemany and Michael Accolti, Fathers John Nobili, Robert Kenna, Willaim Gianera, Patrick Donohoe, and Walter Schmidt, the Bannans, the Heafeys, the Leaveys, the Orradres, the Sanfilippos, and the Swigs.

Thomas I. Bergin, Santa Clara's first graduate and recipient of the first bachelor's degree awarded in California, was one of the earliest people to enrich the legacy for what we have come to know as Santa Clara University. After graduating in 1857, Bergin went on to study law in New York and later practiced in San Francisco. The legacy he left to his alma mater in 1915—a $100,000 cash bequest in his will—was one of the first received by Santa Clara and helped to finance the founding of Santa Clara's School of Law.

In 1987, President William Rewak decided to honor Thomas I. Bergin and to exemplify his generosity to Santa Clara University by creating the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society. This Society honors and thanks those alumni, friends, parents, faculty, and staff who have either made a provision or have stated to the University that they intend to make a provision for Santa Clara University in their estate plans. Gifts that qualify for membership include bequests, life income gifts through a pooled income fund, charitable gift annuity or charitable trusts. Additionally, one may also name Santa Clara University as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a retirement plan.

The intention of the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy society is to build Santa Clara University's endowment and to ensure that it will have the financial resources to provide excellent educational opportunities for future generations.

Download the Notice of Enrollment and Intention Form

Annual Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society Mass and Brunch

Brunch table settingOn Sunday, May 1st, the Office of Gift Planning hosted its annual Thomas I. Bergin Mass and Brunch event.

This year’s 35th celebration to honor alumni and friends for including Santa Clara University in their legacy plans was held, once again, in person.

The event's highlights included a warm welcome from Acting President Lisa Kloppenberg, a presentation by Dr. Prashanth Asuri about the most recent projects in the BioInnovation and Design Lab, and a speech by Karina Sanchez ’22, a scholarship recipient.

Currently, our Legacy Society has over 1,500 members and continues to grow. If you are interested in learning more about the Legacy Society, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at 408-554-2108 or

Thomas I. Bergin Society FAQ

How do I qualify for the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society?

Membership in the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society is extended on a confidential basis to Santa Clara University alumni and friends who have arranged a deferred gift—for example, through a bequest or trust, or who are planning to do so for SCU (regardless of the size of the gift). There is no other requirement or obligation.

Can my gift plans remain anonymous?

SCU is dedicated to preserving the confidentiality of our donors' gift plans. Your name will only be used in honor rolls as a member of the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society with your permission.

What is the connection between the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society and other SCU giving societies?

The Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society recognizes the method of giving, not the size of gift. It is possible to be a member of the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society and also arrange an outright or deferred gift in an amount appropriate to qualify for other giving recognition levels.

What are the benefits of membership in the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society?

Members receive updates from Santa Clara University on legal and tax changes that may affect estate planning, recognition in a special honor roll of contributors, if they choose, and an invitation to an annual luncheon and Back to the Classroom event.

What if I change my plans?

Santa Clara University acknowledges that any revocable gift plan may change in the future. The Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society provides recognition for your current intention to support the mission of SCU.

Do I need to share my estate planning documents with Santa Clara University?

It's not necessary to do so, but it can be helpful. For example, all estate planning documents should use Santa Clara's full, legal title—The President and Board of Trustees of Santa Clara College—to ensure that your eventual gift will come through the University's preferred channel for private support and will be used according to your wishes.

Because wills, trusts, and other documents are legally binding, the purpose must be clearly stated, or the document could create a gift that does not follow your intentions or support the University's mission. Sharing your plans with SCU will enable us to use your gift in a manner that is most aligned with your interests and values.

You may wish to share a copy of only a portion of your estate planning document, or you may describe your gift on the Thomas I. Bergin Legacy Society enrollment form. SCU's planned giving staff is available to consult with you and your professional advisor. Our goal is to ensure that your estate document uses the correct legal title of Santa Clara University and that we understand and will be able to carry out your wishes.

Free Estate Planning Tool

Join fellow SCU supporters on Giving Docs, a safe, secure, and free-for-life suite of estate plan essentials. If you choose to include SCU in your estate plans, you'll be eligible for legacy society benefits!

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