Message from the Dean

The Power of Women's Philanthropy

Joan B. Kroc

Joan B. Kroc, funder of USD's Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


Joan B. Kroc was a philanthropist with a distinctive vision of making American universities into hubs for preparing and supporting new generations of leaders who would go on to succeed in shaping a more just and humane world. Her donation of $80 million to the University of San Diego gave origin to the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. Her vision and generosity, as well as her focus on higher education, require the attention of philanthropists and investors committed to change—particularly women philanthropists.

Mrs. Kroc’s vision for greater peace education at the university brings up the old question, “What would the world be like if more women were making important decisions from government to foreign policy to education?” Mrs. Kroc—together with Dr. Alice Hayes, the University of San Diego’s president at the time—not only envisioned a new school focused on peace and justice, they also had a dream which involved developing an emerging academic discipline to prepare people with the “moral imagination” to solve the greatest social challenges of our era.

Although donating money to support a university initiative already in place is important, Mrs. Kroc understood we couldn’t prepare new leaders to build peace and create real change by educating them with more of the traditional disciplines and pedagogies. This initiative would require the creation of an institution of original thinkers combining knowledge, ideation and experimentation unlike any other place in academia. Furthermore, those individuals would need to work alongside peace innovators creating change in their communities, often under most difficult circumstances. Mrs. Kroc contributed her money to inspire a bold academic endeavor whereby developing and nurturing professionals of peace, the global community would have a greater chance of moving peace from aspiration to reality.

USD fully supported developing a school for professionals of peace and changemaking, and in recognition of its funder, it named the new school the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies (Kroc School). Its significance lies in the reality that a name given to an entity at the university is not simply a name. It is a powerful symbol that shapes and reinforces beliefs and narratives of what is possible. The naming of a new school can drive the education agenda others choose to support. It shifts the focus from traditional disciplines to peace education.

Beyond Mrs. Kroc’s support for a new academic discipline, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies is among the very few schools in this nation named after a woman. Most university schools and institutes carry the names of men or couples. For instance, very few of the major gifts ($50 million and above) to higher education given in the last two decades have been given by women. There are even fewer women philanthropists for whom institutions are named at universities. One case is the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, named after Darla Moore donated $70 million. Another one is the Buffet Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern, named after Roberta Buffet Elliot’s gift for almost $110 million to her alma mater (and some might mistakenly think the name was the result of her brother William’s philanthropy). For those of us driving an agenda of peace education, as well as women empowerment, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies name carries the “what if…” urging us to shape new models for higher education. It is my hope that it also represents an example to follow by the growing number of women philanthropists.

Impact makes the case for any philanthropist. We are still a young school, yet I cannot do justice in this message to all that has been achieved in just a decade. In a short time, the Kroc School has graduated more than 250 professionals of peace and social innovation from around the world (many coming from conflict zones), who have gone on to lead impressive initiatives. In that period of time, the institution has developed a global network of peace leaders, including more than 1,000 extraordinary women sharing with San Diego their knowledge on ways to transform all kinds of violent conflicts and social injustices. The facility built with Mrs. Kroc’s philanthropic dollars houses year-round events, classes and art exhibits focused on social justice.

If we want peace, we must educate for peace. We are intentional about being a point of gathering, a magnet of connections, and a safe space to discuss most troubling phenomena of our times as well as design and implement solutions. Overlooking our binational region to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Kroc School is, to quote founding Dean Bill Headley, “an oasis of peace” where self-reflection is encouraged and supported. Our peacebuilding molecules and souls are made of a cornucopia of brains, talent, courage, commitment, beauty and great weather that fuels the new thinking necessary for achieving real systems change. This would not be possible without believing universities are central to world change and, of course, we would not be where we are without Mrs. Kroc’s financial support. We are aware, we have a long way to go. We have much to do to inspire and professionalize peace. We cannot do this without further support. Join us in educating for peace here or anywhere in the world.

Dean Patricia Marquez Dean Patricia Marquez "We have much to do to inspire and professionalize peace. We cannot do this without further support. Join us in educating for peace here or anywhere in the world."