Be Good Neighbors

Tom and Karen MulvaneyWhen Tom and Karen Mulvaney talk about their neighborhood, a narrow, inviting lane in Lafayette, it’s a story of 30 years of caring relationships with close neighbors. “Our sweet, sweet neighbors,” as Karen put it.

But as you listen to these big-hearted people, you realize that their neighborhood extends far beyond their quiet lane to encompass the entire world.

Avid volunteers themselves, the Mulvaneys were intensely moved by the experiences of their daughter, Marguerite “Meg” Mulvaney ’13, M.A. ’14, in a Jan Term class in Rwanda led by the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action (CILSA) and supporters.

“It was a profound experience,” Tom said. “As parents, while we weren’t ‘boots on the ground,’ we were able to vicariously experience what was happening there.”

To expand such opportunities for other students, the Mulvaneys created the Mulvaney Family Head, Heart and Hands Endowment Fund with a gift of $250,000 to CILSA, challenging others to give and promising to match gifts up to $50,000 annually for five years, for a total of $500,000.

“To have our children or students we know go and be part of that kind of experience brings us a lot closer to a place and its people than reading a newspaper.” Karen said. “It breaks down that separation we all feel between each other, and allows us to see that we are all really the same.”

Now the Mulvaneys have contributed $35,000 to create a collaborative program between CILSA and a similar organization at the University of San Diego, where Tom received his law degree. This summer, SMC and USD students will collaborate on immersion service-learning projects in the Bay Area.

“We’re eager to see if this could lead to partnerships with other institutions and a community of student leaders in Catholic colleges across the West Coast,” said CILSA’s Director Marshall Welch.

For the Mulvaneys, facilitating such connections is deeply rewarding.

“It’s an opportunity to change lives,” Tom said. “If we’re going to try to make the world a better place, this is how we do it—by working together, learning and helping each other. I think it’s what we have to do.”

“It gives my life, all life, meaning,” said Karen. “If not for each other, why else are we here?”

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