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Parties: Giving Back to the Givers

Written by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Drew Altizer

Like a chic, spirited pep rally, tout le monde of Westside Irish and devout Catholics turned out in force on March 3 at the Lakeside Olympic Club to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the University of San Francisco’s Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good.

Some 260 guests raised a record $475K for McCarthy Center student scholarships. And also exercised numerous standing ovations for Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as the evening’s honorees — San Francisco Examiner Publisher Clint Reilly and his wife, UC Regent Janet Reilly, a cofounder of the free Clinic by the Bay. The philanthropic couple, who also own the Nob Hill Gazette and founded Bay Scholars together, received the Leo T. McCarthy Award for Public Service.

The late McCarthy’s son, attorney Niall McCarthy, noted the Reillys’ numerous charitable works. “In 15 years, Bay Scholars has transformed the lives of thousands of inner-city students by granting $7 million in scholarships to attend a Catholic preparatory high school,” McCarthy said.

“The Reillys have devoted their lives to the principles of the McCarthy Center,” he continued. “And my dad thought the world of the Reillys.”

Leo McCarthy, who died in 2007, remains a heralded figure of compassionate public policy. He ably served the City and state as an S.F. supervisor, speaker of the California State Assembly and lieutenant governor of California. More than two decades ago, McCarthy envisioned a center to train future leaders committed to ethical public service.

“Initially, Clint and I felt uneasy being singled out for good works,” said Janet Reilly. “But we loved Leo; he was a dear friend. And we realized this was an opportunity to honor Leo and his legacy. The Leo McCarthy Center is the manifestation of all that Leo was and stood for: an institution that raises people up. An institution striving to create a more just and equal society. An institution that inspires civic engagement, giving voice to the voiceless. And standing up for what is right, even when it’s not convenient or popular. Just like Leo did.”

A lively dinner, auction and stacked docket of talented orators was led by event chairs Sharon McCarthy Allen (a daughter of Leo) and USF alum HollyHogan, McCarthy Center advisory board chairwoman, with McCarthy Center senior director Derick Brown.

“If a picture says a thousand words, one word is worth a thousand pictures,” said Pelosi, whose initial campaign was successfully led by Clint Reilly. “Leo: a champion of poor and marginalized communities. Leo: who advocated for the environment, public education, veterans and immigrants. He was truly a progressive. Wherever he’d be on that spectrum now, Leo always carried that banner to make our future better.”

Pelosi also noted that the Reillys were akin to the principles of McCarthy and his center. “Janet and Clint share Leo’s values, faith-filled goodness, excellence and integrity. That word, ‘integrity,’ is the standard the Reillys live up to — a great integrity in all they do, supporting and developing charitable organizations that meet the needs of all people in our city.”

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