Five years ago, St. Mary’s University in San Antonio announced The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign with a goal of $130 million—the largest in University history. Some said this was an impossible goal, but at St. Mary’s, we believed.

Now, The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign has concluded—reaching an astounding $165 million.

The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign has succeeded in achieving the University’s vision of becoming among the finest Catholic universities in Texas and the southwest. At St. Mary’s University, we believe in what is possible.

St. Louis Hall at St. Mary’s University is the oldest building on

Envisioning Our Future

The alumni of St. Mary’s University are as unique as our evolving landscape. The nearly 11,500 donors to The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign gave because they share our historical legacy and the University’s vision for the future of higher education.

“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?” said St. Mary’s President Thomas M. Mengler, J.D. “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 within the fabric of the University for many decades.

Each alumnus has a story to tell about the people and places of St. Mary’s that touched their lives and helped them envision what was possible for their futures. The legacy of their gifts will continue to enhance the St. Mary’s environment for generations to come.

Business State of Mind

Lynda Ellis (B.A.S. ’81) would be the first to tell you the business world is not easy. As the CEO and owner of Capitol Concierge, Ellis knows the pressure of having to make day-to-day decisions that not only affect her life, but also the lives of the 345 employees who work for the company based near the nation’s capital. 

To help encourage students—especially young women—to make their mark on the world, Ellis, who is Chair-elect of the University’s Board of Trustees, founded the Lynda Ellis Women in Business Excellence Award and Scholarship at St. Mary’s University. The annual award, created in 2018, will be distributed over 10 years and goes to a student entering her senior year. A separate award also recognizes an alumna or female member of the local business community each year. 

“It meant a lot to me that I could make a difference in someone else’s life,” she said, “that we could hold women in business up and say, ‘You can be this.’”

The Unmanned Aerial Systems Laboratory (Drone Lab) at St. Mary’s University — complete with a flight area, an observation area and workstations — allows professors to incorporate drones into their curriculum and students to take on more drone-related research for industry partners.Photo courtesy of St. Mary’s University

Helping Students Discover Themselves

RaSheeda Keir (B.A. ’01, M.A. ’02) made the decision to attend St. Mary’s University when her coworker at a grocery store, who at the time was attending the University’s School of Law, thought she would be a good fit with the University. As a first-generation college student, Keir attributed a lot of her success at St. Mary’s to a scholarship created for Black students, as well as support from faculty and friends on campus. 

Now living near Washington, D.C., Keir has given back to the University by creating a scholarship honoring the legacy of the late Rev. Norbert Brockman, S.M., a longtime St. Mary’s Associate Professor of Political Science. It will be awarded to a Black student of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences over the course of three years.

“We alumni recognize how the scholarship money affects students’ lives,” Kerr said. “It gives them the opportunity to focus on their studies.”

Giving for the Next Generation

For Juan Valadez Jr. (B.S. ’03, M.S. ’06, M.B.A. ’11), attending St. Mary’s University has become a family affair. Earning his three degrees from St. Mary’s, Valadez said his son, Michael, recently transferred to the University and was welcomed to campus by new classmates. Valadez said he felt compelled to donate to The Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign to help future students. His gift supported the new Unmanned Aerial Systems Laboratory, aka Drone Lab. 

“When I was at St. Mary’s, I had grants and scholarships. That money comes from somewhere,” Valadez said. “This is my chance to give back to future generations.” 

The Pub at St. Mary’s was reopened as part of The Defining Moment Campaign.Photo courtesy of St. Mary’s University

A Sense of Community

Leticia “Leti” Contreras (B.A. ’89) and Thomas “Tom” Contreras (B.B.A. ’88) hope all St. Mary’s students will get to share a sense of togetherness and community. It’s that campus community that brought the two together. They met at the original, on-campus pub. The pub, which closed in the early 90’s, served as an area for students, faculty and staff to mingle.

“It’s having a place to commune and a place to just chill out and talk,” said Tom Contreras, who chaired the Greehey School of Business portion of the campaign. “That’s important for a Catholic Marianist university like St. Mary’s.”

As part of The Defining Moment Campaign, the couple donated to create the Contreras Family Terrace and Student Lounge, along with reopening The Pub at St. Mary’s, and also gave in support of the Rattler Golf team and the study of Risk Management in the business school.

“Giving is about the students in future generations,” said Leti Contreras, Chair of the St. Mary’s Board of Trustees. “We’ve had our experience. We’ve arrived. Now, it’s about giving many other students that same experience.”