Longtime USC Trustee Kathleen Leavey McCarthy. Photo by Gus Ruelas

Student Life

New Honors College Finds a Home at USC Village

A gift from the Leavey Foundation builds new home for top scholars

March 22, 2016 Jessica Raymond

Every student who has thrown a Frisbee across McCarthy Quad or had a late-night study session in Leavey Library has benefited from the generosity of USC Trustee Kathleen Leavey McCarthy ’57 and her family. As chair of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, which was created by her parents, McCarthy helped fund these two hubs for student activities. Her latest commitment goes a step further: It supports an iconic part of future undergraduates’ lives.

The Leavey Foundation dedicated $30 million for the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Honors Hall at USC Village. The building will house the Honors Residence Hall, as well as the Kathleen L. McCarthy Honors College. “This is going to be a very special place for these students who are so bright and accomplished,” McCarthy says. “I know that being part of this community will be a transformative experience in their lives.”

Living on campus is an important part of the college experience, says McCarthy, whose husband, Frank Kostlan ’62, is a devoted USC alumnus. “USC Village will provide that opportunity for students who want to live on campus and can’t now because there aren’t enough beds,” she says. “It’s going to be an extremely special addition to the university.”

McCarthy knows her parents would be thrilled to see the family’s legacy of giving continue at USC. Her father, Thomas Leavey, co-founded Farmers Insurance, and together with his wife, Dorothy, he established the Leavey Foundation in 1952 to help others.

What began as a tiny family enterprise grew into one of California’s largest philanthropic organizations. Over six decades, the foundation has donated extensively to higher education, medical institutions and children’s causes. The foundation also endowed USC’s first trustees chair at the USC Gould School of Law in memory of McCarthy’s late husband, attorney and devoted USC alumnus J. Thomas McCarthy ’53, LLB ’56.

McCarthy treasures her long relationship with USC, which began in 1953 when she moved into her freshman dormitory in Hubbard Hall. She was welcomed into the USC community and found her niche as a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. Some of her fondest memories include her many friends and her crowning as USC’s 1954 homecoming queen.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education, McCarthy maintained her strong ties to the university through her active involvement in Trojan Junior Auxiliary and Trojan League of Los Angeles. She was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1986, making her one of USC’s longest-serving trustees.

Her pride in her alma mater is evident in everything from her glowing words about USC to her cardinal-colored car with its personalized, USC-themed license plates. “Seeing the university evolve over the years has been nothing but a joyful experience,” McCarthy says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”