A Valued Investment
When Khanh Duy Russo ’01 enrolled in Santa Clara University to become a Jesuit priest, his Vietnamese-American parents were overjoyed. As devout Catholics whose relatives had founded a church and convent in Vietnam, they had fled their war-torn country and arrived as refugees in San Jose in 1980. With the help of Catholic Charities, the couple built a new life and hoped that their five children would join the Church.
Khanh intended to follow that path, laid out for him as a religious studies major at SCU. But a course in political science upended those plans when he realized he could change the world for good in a different way. He achieved his goals through a wide-ranging career that included community development and social entrepreneurship work at The Forbes Funds, as well as his corporate social responsibility efforts at Cisco. He participated in Cisco’s housing-first strategy to reduce homelessness, and recently helped to establish the Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School.
Today, Khanh is San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s Director of Strategic Partnership and Performance, and the LGBTQ Liaison to the Community. His faith in the Catholic Church remains steadfast, and he’s a member of several non-profits. Among them is Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, where Khanh served as Board President, and where his husband David Russo is Senior Director of Planned Giving. “Santa Clara was just so transformative for me, because it opened up my eyes to all the different possibilities,” Khanh says of his SCU education.
Khanh wanted to find a way to give back, not just for himself, but for two siblings who also attended the University. An opportunity arose when he was asked to join the Santa Clara University Leadership Board of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). It was David who suggested they also leave a legacy gift through one of their Joint IRA Beneficiary Funds. “It’s a statement of our life values,” says David. “Between his attending the University and the fact that I have an arts background, CAS embraces things we are both interested in.”
Their only stipulation is that the funds remain unrestricted, to be used by SCU for any reason. “When I pass,” Khanh says, “I have full faith that the University—because it is driven by the values of compassion and conscience and competence—will do what is right.”