Notre Dame graduates are the foundation of our lifelong network. This historic campaign to construct the Center for Women’s Leadership is an opportunity for all alumnae to participate in shaping the future for young women and strengthen the Notre Dame network.
Three years after graduating from Notre Dame High School in San Jose, Anna Fox made her first gift of $5 to her alma mater. Back in 1992 that was a stretch for a college undergrad, but she wanted to follow the example set by her parents. “When I attended Notre Dame my parents went to the Emile’s dinner every year, which was then Notre Dame’s major fundraising event, and they continue to donate today. Additionally, they have made small and large personal donations to schools they attended, open space land preservation, and many other organizations they strongly believe in. They have also helped family members during lean times. They have been an example and an inspiration to me and have shared things that are important to them,” says Anna. It took a few years, until 2000, for Anna to be in a position to make another gift, but since then she has made a gift every year.
Anna’s commitment to giving back to Notre Dame has increased gradually over the years and taken a variety of forms. She served on the board of directors from 2000-2003, attends as many ND events - especially alumnae events - as she can, and her friendships with other Notre Dame alumnae have grown stronger. “My motivation for giving includes the positive, small school melting-pot experience I had with great teachers when I was a student, the life-long friendships I developed with classmates (most of which blossomed and grew even stronger after graduation), and my belief that Notre Dame has a real need. Notre Dame always appeared to be running on a tight budget compared to other Catholic and private schools. I remember one teacher telling me she could make more money elsewhere but she loved the ND mission and spirit.”
When she became a mother five years ago, Anna “stopped being a shy feminist and stepped into my womanhood in all its truthful glory! I am gaining confidence and wisdom as I get older and reflect on my life’s journey. As a result, I want to help make things better for everyone on the planet by supporting the education of all young women so that they can better contribute to the humanity of the world. I want to throw down the seeds and help cultivate the path that I myself came from, but hopefully help them get started sooner.” To that end, Anna has sown seeds into this campaign and hopes that her gift will inspire other alumnae to join her in giving back to Notre Dame.
When the History Vision Mission Campaign was launched, Anna was among the first to step forward with a leadership gift of $250,000. Anna’s experience at Notre Dame, along with the opportunity to be part of this transformational campaign to construct the Center for Women’s Leadership, motivated her to make Notre Dame a philanthropic priority. “Over the past 17 years ND was my first, and in many years, my only donation. Today, they are still one of my few choice picks. This capital campaign donation is by far the biggest donation I have made, because I can and because this is a very real need. My years at ND were a gift, and each donation is my gift back to the school and to young women today who I want to have greater opportunities with each new year.”
As a woman in a senior management position at Intel and a member of Notre Dame High School’s Board of Directors, Nicola Tan ‘03 has broken through the glass ceiling in many regards. But her story isn’t typical, and more of a testament to her inner strength and education than a reflection of the current business environment. With women filling less than 14% of executive positions across S&P 500 companies, it can be difficult to find role models, mentors and sponsors. Nicola wants to see that change long before 2085, when it is estimated women will reach parity with men in leadership positions.
“At Notre Dame, there were no stigmas associated with being a scholar and a leader,” shares Nicola. “It was actually encouraged and is one of the reasons I was never afraid of entering the tech world.” As a student at Notre Dame, Nicola played basketball, soccer, volleyball and was on the track and field team. She also served in various leadership positions. “I could have easily been that shy girl in the corner but everyone was always so supportive and friendly and it made me comfortable being a leader. It was extremely formative and you can still feel that spirit at Notre Dame today. I look at the students and think they could have been my classmates.”
After Notre Dame, Nicola earned a mechanical engineering degree from MIT and then worked at Hewlett Packard for several years before returning to MIT for graduate school. “During graduate school I volunteered for several months in the Philippines after a major hurricane struck the area my mom was from. I returned later as an organizational consultant with the Red Cross, helping them optimize disaster relief.” Gratitude and giving back are important to Nicola, who believes those values grew from her Notre Dame education.
In addition to sharing of her time and talent, Nicola hopes other women will join her in encouraging philanthropic parity among women. “I came to a realization pretty early that I was working now and could give back financially.” Nicola and her Notre Dame Class of 2003 formed a tuition assistance giving circle to support a student from Our Lady of Grace Nativity School. “The need is so clear and you can see the immediate impact when you meet the student and her family.” Nicola also recognizes the importance of building infrastructure for long-term sustainability and has been an avid supporter of the capital campaign. “It isn’t just a vanity project. I know my gift to the campaign will help ensure that Notre Dame will be able to continue graduating the articulate, compassionate young women we see today.”
Nicola believes the world is beginning to understand the true value of diversity and the need for more women in leadership positions in technology, business and government. “Bringing different points of view and different perspectives to the table makes any organization stronger and it begins here. Notre Dame is providing a huge service to the global community in providing a place where young women can grow and learn and become the future leaders this world needs. I want to be part of that legacy.”