Who Was Joseph Alioto?

And why is the Recreation Center named for him?

Joseph AliotoJoseph L. Alioto, born in San Francisco in 1916, graduated magna cum laude in 1937 from Saint Mary’s, where he was editor of the yearbook, president of the student body and class valedictorian. Alioto, who died in 1998 at the age of 81, was mayor of San Francisco from 1968 to 1976, during its highrise building boom and what the San Francisco Examiner called “a turbulent era when The City was rocked by civil rights and anti-war protests and by profound economic and demographic change as well.”

Bernie Orsi ’65, a trustee of the Kalmanovitz Foundation—the primary funder of the Joseph L. Alioto Recreation Center—worked with Alioto at San Francisco’s City Hall. “It was time for Joe Alioto to have his name on something,” Orsi said at the Rec Center groundbreaking in January 2014. “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.”

At the groundbreaking, Orsi heaped praise on the man whose name will grace the recreation center and entertained the crowd with stories of Alioto’s ability to defuse conflict during turbulent times. He said it was fitting for the recreation center to be named for Alioto, who was a mentor to him and also instrumental in the lives of Paul Kalmanovitz and the elder Raymond Syufy, both of whom have given generously to Saint Mary’s.

Alioto attended Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco before coming to Saint Mary’s. After graduating from Catholic University law school, he worked for the Justice Department's antitrust division and then for a wartime agency before returning to San Francisco and starting his own law firm in 1946. He later became active in banking and agribusiness, as well as civic projects involving education and economic development.