B.J. Cassin, a strong supporter of Saint Mary's College of California and Catholic education, will receive an honorary doctorate during the 140th Saint Mary's traditional undergraduate commencement on Saturday, May 24, 2003 in the football stadium.
Saint Mary's College President Brother Craig Franz FSC, Ph.D. will bestow the honorary degree in educational leadership on the venture capitalist from Los Altos Hills. Cassin and his wife, Bebe, have been connected with Saint Mary's since the late 1980s when their son, Jonathan, entered the College as a freshman. He received his undergraduate degree in 1991 and later earned a Saint Mary's MBA, a distinction he shares with his sister, Kelley.
The College can award honorary degrees to individuals who - in the judgment of the Board of Trustees - have attained eminence or distinction in one of the following fields: Scholarship or education; the creative or performing arts; and public service including the church, government and business.
Mr. Cassin was chairman of Saint Mary's Board of Trustees for the maximum permissible period of four years. He also headed the College's Investment Committee for several years as both a Trustee and Regent. As a result, Mr. Cassin established a venture capital fund, the Gael Growth Fund, which netted the institution about $3 Â½ million in additional endowment funds.
To enhance student life, the College of the Holy Cross (MA) graduate made a $6 million gift for construction of a Saint Mary's student union in the area of campus formerly occupied by the post office and bookstore. The Cassin Student Union was dedicated in Bebe Cassin's honor on Oct. 7, 1999 as part of the record-setting Spirit of Saint Mary's Capital Campaign. That campaign concluded in 2001 with more than $190 million raised in cash and pledges for the College.
"As I enter the sunset of my Saint Mary's College involvement, I am honored by this very special distinction (of the honorary doctorate)," Mr. Cassin said. "I am proud to have been part of an exciting growth period for the College. The Christian Brothers, faculty and staff have succeeded in making Saint Mary's a superior Catholic institution and I am grateful to have been a small part of this excellence."
In 2000, the Cassin family founded the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation to replicate two innovative high school (Cristo Rey) and middle school (San Miguel and Nativity) programs aimed at inner city youth.
The Cristo Rey high school model is a unique work-study program through which students finance most of their education by sharing entry level, clerical jobs at area businesses. The Foundation also supports the start up operations for new Christian Brothers San Miguel and Jesuit Nativity middle schools.
Currently, there are four Cristo Rey schools in Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, TX and Portland, OR. A fifth Cristo Rey school will open in Denver this Fall followed next year by schools in Cleveland, Tucson, AZ, Waukegan, Ill. and Lawrence and North Cambridge, MA. The San Miguel and Nativity Prep middle schools serve more than 40 low-income communities across the country. Each school educates about 60 - 75 students and relies on a combination of experienced teachers and volunteers to provide intensive instruction to children who have struggled academically and socially.