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Doing Good, Daily

The Mulvaneys carry on a family tradition of supporting community.

Karen and Tom ’77 (JD) Mulvaney understand that behind each social concern lies an opportunity to do good.

By her parents’ example, Karen credits her mother and father for teaching her to lighten others’ loads whenever possible. Similarly, Tom’s father, Jim, served lessons in stewardship with dinner. The late Jim Mulvaney was a former USD professor and renowned San Diego civic leader involved in causes like the United Way, the Mercy Hospital Foundation, and St. Vincent De Paul.

“My father would go around the table and listen to everyone talk about how their day went,” Tom says. “Then he’d ask if anything you did benefited someone else. If you played a sport, you’d be asked, ‘What did you do that contributed to the benefit of the team?’”

By blurring lines and labels that separate, Karen and Tom believe that social engagement is a reciprocal act of giving and generosity, enriching and lifting everyone. In 2012, they issued the Mulvaney Challenge: If the USD community could raise $400,000 for the university’s Center for Community Service-Learning (CSL), the Mulvaneys would match it. USD faculty, alumni, staff, and students more than rose to the occasion, raising $450,000, and the Mulvaneys acted in kind. Over the years they have been steadfast in their support, giving a combined $3 million to expand the reach of USD’s community engagement efforts—mentoring at-risk youth, planting community gardens, consulting on microfinance projects, and hosting immersion projects around the world. In their honor, USD renamed its center the Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action.

Their endowment also established the Mulvaney Fellows Program, in which USD students participate in community-based learning and engagement activities alongside students from St. Mary’s College of California.

The Mulvaneys strongly believe that social action and engagement are essential for community health and positive change.