Bernard Orsi ’65 claims that if he hadn’t attended Saint Mary’s he probably would have ended up being a tuna fisherman somewhere in the South Pacific. He says he owes all of his achievements to his alma mater.
“The College offered me a broad liberal arts education and exposure to things I had never heard of or seen coming from a small fishing town and a working-class background,” Orsi said. “I had no idea what was over the horizon or how to get there. Saint Mary’s showed me the way.”
Being a Gael also proved a career asset when fellow alumnus Joseph Alioto ’37 (San Francisco mayor from 1968–1976) first hired him. Orsi served in a variety of positions, including general manager of the city’s Civil Service Commission.
He then went on to work for Paul Kalmanovitz, an Alioto legal client who owned breweries, including Falstaff and later Pabst Brewing Co., as well as commercial real estate interests. Orsi is now CEO of that company, S&P Co.
Paul, who died in 1987 and his wife, Lydia, who died in 1994, left most of their estate to the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, which funds hospitals, colleges and universities, and Orsi became one of its three trustees. Since its establishment in 2000, the foundation has given away about $89 million.
Through Orsi’s influence, Saint Mary’s has become one of its major beneficiaries, receiving $10 million for the expansion of the school of education, renamed the Kalmanovitz School of Education when it opened in 2008.
Soon after that, the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation stepped in once again, with another $10 million gift for the College’s new recreation center. And it didn’t take Orsi long to figure out whom to honor.
“It was time for Joe Alioto to have his name on something,” Orsi said. “Not only is he one of Saint Mary’s most distinguished alumni, but everywhere he went he would talk about what a fine education he had received from the Christian Brothers at Saint Mary’s. Alioto was a man of integrity, committed to his faith and as an anti-trust attorney championed the causes of the underdog.” And thanks to Orsi, the world will have one more way to remember Joe Alioto.