Whether negotiating a room of half-remembered faces at a reunion or milling about before a Dons game, University of San Francisco alumni searching for a familiar face at events over the past two decades could count on one above all others—that of Alumni Relations Director Annette Anton ’69, MA ’83.
With an inquiring “Hiya. How’s it going?” or a “Hey there, stranger. I haven’t seen you in a while,” Anton had a way of putting USFers at ease and making them feel welcome.
Anton retired from USF in February after more than 20 years of service.
She will be dearly missed.
“Annette is second only to Chancellor John Lo Schiavo, S.J., as the face and the heart of USF for countless alums,” USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., said during Anton’s retirement reception, acknowledging the magnitude of her role at the university.
How apropos then that it was with Fr. Lo Schiavo that Anton formed one of her earliest, closest, and longest-lasting USF relationships. By Fr. Lo Schiavo’s recollection, he met Anton on the first day of her freshman year, 1965. As USF’s dean of students at the time, Fr. Lo Schiavo was charged with providing students with IDs. As he prepared to open the door to a snaking line of students waiting to have their photos snapped, he realized that he needed help reconciling the list of students’ names with those who had already been photographed.
“I looked around and I saw this young lady sitting there kind of watching me,” Fr. Lo Schiavo said. “So, I went over and I asked her, ‘Would you mind helping me?’”
Anton graciously agreed. After that, Fr. Lo Schiavo received a phone call from Anton the day before registration every year volunteering to help. It was the beginning of a friendship now in its 46th year. “She always puts herself out there for everyone,” Fr. Lo Schiavo said.
Annette Anton '69
USF senior class photo
A native San Franciscan, Anton has lived, studied, worshipped, and worked within sight of St. Ignatius Church for much of her life. She was born at St. Mary’s Medical Center, across the street from what is now the School of Law, and raised in the Haight. She attended Presentation High School (later purchased by the university), earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in education from USF, then returned to Presentation High School to teach social studies for 22 years, the final 10 of which she was also an assistant principal.
Fr. Lo Schiavo and others often benefited from Anton’s encyclopedic knowledge of USF’s 93,000 living alumni. “She’s a walking, talking alumni directory,” Fr. Lo Schiavo joked.
Anton’s list of accomplishments as alumni director is too long to spell out. Just as examples, she and her staff established the Alumni Association’s Thanksgiving Food Drive, helped to develop USF’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2005, led USF’s award-winning St. Patrick’s Day Parade trolley float tradition, and produced the popular Spring Gala—which honors alumni, including the alumnus of the year.
She also expanded USF’s seven regional councils and supported the councils’ efforts to increase local alumni engagement through events, service projects, and the establishment of scholarships for USF students.
Anton is so well liked that it is impossible to go out on the town with her and not be approached, said DeDee Sammut ’74, past Alumni Association board president and Anton’s friend of 20 years. “At any bar or restaurant in San Francisco, somebody would always come up and talk to her—a student who worked for her, an alum she mentored, a professor, an athlete, a golden alum,” Sammut said.
Sammut, who attends Dons basketball games with her husband, Joseph Sammut ’75, and often joins Anton in the bleachers, can testify that Anton isn’t shy about getting her “Go Dons!” on. “She will definitely cheer, boo the referees, wave her green and gold scarf, whatever it takes,” Sammut said. “She’s definitely not a timid fan.”
Anton is also a regular at volleyball, soccer, baseball, and other athletic matches. She even went on the road with the USF’s women’s basketball team twice, most recently in 2009 for a summer European tour.
So how did Anton do it? It can best be summed up in the words, “She gets it,” Sammut said. “As an alum, as a USF neighbor (Anton lives in University Terrace, between upper and lower campus), as somebody who bleeds green and gold, she brought her love of USF into everything she did for the Alumni Association. And we love her for it.”