Often the story behind a gift can be as gracious as the gift itself. For the late Virgil Cattalini ’33, the story of his posthumous gift to Saint Mary’s College of more than a quarter of a million dollars, received this year, is made up of one part kindness and one part punishment.
Cattalini was born in Colma in 1909 to Italian immigrants who raised seven children along with vegetables for market. Virgil was four years old when his mother died, and in time, Virgil and his brother Albert were placed in Saint Vincent’s Orphan Asylum in San Rafael, an institution of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Young Virgil found a friend in the orphanage’s director, Brother Vellesian Mallon, FSC, a former Saint Mary’s College president, who looked after him—the act of kindness.
In 1928, Virgil and Albert started at Saint Mary’s, with the help of loans from an older brother. Devoted to athletics, Virgil became the football team’s equipment manager. When the Gaels began a cross-country train trip to play Fordham in New York, however, he wasn’t included on the travel list. Undeterred, Cattalini stowed away, but was discovered en route and made to suffer the consequences. He was flunked in every course that year, forcing him to graduate after five years, not four—the punishment.
When Cattalini died in October 2002, his nephew, Alvin Cattalini ’61, said of him, “While the harsh discipline he received would have embittered most people, Virge left college full of love for the Christian Brothers who had so influenced his life.” Alvin Cattalini also pointed out that his uncle had taken Brother Vellesian’s name as his confirmation name, and adopted it for use as his middle name for the rest of his life.
Cattalini’s gift will help future Saint Mary’s students in accordance with his wishes, says Emerson McFarland, major gifts officer at Saint Mary’s. Most of the Cattalini money will endow a scholarship fund in his name, and a portion will be added to the College’s general endowment fund. “He showed his loyalty to the College some 70 years after he was here, by leaving a gift that will last for perpetuity,” says McFarland.nto this new academic year, may Mary, our Patroness and Mother, intercede to God for His blessings upon them and all of you and your families.