Del Mar resident’s foundation donates $30 million to USC

Kathleen Leavey McCarthy / Courtesy photo

Hundreds of college students will be able to call the University of Southern California home because of a multi-million dollar gift from a part-time Del Mar resident.

The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, chaired by USC Trustee Kathleen Leavey McCarthy, recently donated $30 million to the university to create the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Honors Hall at the new USC Village. Housing both the Honors Residence Hall and the Kathleen L. McCarthy Honors College, Leavey Honors Hall will provide a living space for as many as 600 freshman honors students and a program of academic, cultural and social activities.

“It’s going to be so spectacular and add so much to the university,” said McCarthy, a Los Angeles native, who owns a summer home in Del Mar. “It’s an exciting project to be involved with.”

Set to open in 2017, USC Village will combine academic, student housing, recreational and retail space to create a comprehensive living and learning environment for USC students. In addition to McCarthy Honors College, four other residential colleges are being planned for USC Village. Together, they will add approximately 2,700 beds to university-owned student housing.

“The McCarthy gift will help us propel the residential college proponent so living on campus becomes a value-added experience, where students get to learn and engage in the places that they live,” said Ainsley Carry, USC’s vice provost for student affairs.

McCarthy and the Leavey Foundation have a long history of giving to USC, having provided the major gifts for Leavey Library and McCarthy Quad. In addition, the foundation has made contributions to various scholarship endowments and established USC’s first trustee chair named in memory of McCarthy’s husband, J. Thomas McCarthy. The couple met as students at USC.

“Kathleen McCarthy has an abiding passion for our students and understands the importance of providing them with supportive and intellectually-engaging residential communities,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias in a press release. “We’re tremendously grateful that she stepped forward to make the first major gift to the USC Village, a project that will immeasurably enhance residential life for our students.”

The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation was established by McCarthy’s parents, Farmers Insurance Group co-founder Thomas Leavey and his wife Dorothy Risley Leavey in 1952. Since then the foundation has donated more than $200 million to institutions and charitable causes, said McCarthy, who now heads the Los Angeles-based organization.

“It was a wonderful experience for me when I was in school,” said McCarthy, who received her bachelor’s degree in 1957 from what is now called the USC Rossier School of Education. “I think it’s wonderful to be able to give back if you can.”