Frequently Asked Questions

What is the University of San Francisco California Prize
for Service and the Common Good?

The University of San Francisco awards the USF California Prize for Service and the Common Good prize to an outstanding individual or organization for groundbreaking achievement in pursuit of the common good, and significant service to the poor and marginalized. The prize is awarded yearly, and comes with a $10,000 prize and a handcrafted medal.

The prize reflects the university's mission to educate minds and hearts to change the world. The dinner is a celebration of men and women for others, as represented by the honoree and the University, with proceeds dedicated to service learning programs for students.

Why did USF create the California Prize?

The USF California Prize was created to honor an exemplary member, or group, in the California civic community dedicated to serving others.

USF is passionate about inspiring its students to lead ethical lives and give back to their communities, and the USF California Prize is a powerful example which demonstrates to them the tremendous impact that a single individual or group can have. It also gives the university an opportunity to highlight service learning. Nearly 400,000 hours of community service are performed by its students, faculty and staff each year.

What does USF hope to achieve by bestowing this annual prize?

With the continuation of this award, USF has the opportunity to spotlight people who are defying the status quo and working to enrich the lives of all members of our society. By honoring people who are using their talents to help educate and serve the greater community, we are providing real examples to USF and beyond of individuals using their values and sensitivity to be men and women for others.

How is the winner chosen?

Nominations are accepted year round from the USF community and from the public at large, and a jury of distinguished Californians selects the winner. Jury members include:

  • Corey Cook, Director, The Leo. T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the
    Common Good, Assistant Professor of Politics, University of San Francisco
  • David Lyon, Founding CEO/President, Public Policy Institute of California
  • Patrick Murphy, Professor of Politics, University of San Francisco
  • USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.
  • Catarina Schwab, VP, Development-California Region, buildOn
  • Kevin Starr, State Librarian Emeritus, Professor of History, University of Southern
Nominees for the USF California Prize must be based in California, or California must be their primary area of service.


How are proceeds from the dinner used?

The proceeds are directed to the University of San Francisco's Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. The McCarthy Center supports undergraduate and graduate academic programs, provides service learning and government experiences for students, and generates publishable research. The McCarthy Center provides special training for faculty members who want to incorporate service learning into their coursework.

Under the direction of the McCarthy Center, student Advocates for Community Engagement act as liaisons between selected community organizations, USF professors, and service-learning students to design and support service-learning projects. These include educational opportunities with the Bay Area Red Cross, the Bayview YMCA, and the St. Anthony Foundation. International service initiatives include implementing sustainable development programs in Uganda and Bolivia, designing a library for street children in Lusaka, Zambia, and building housing for impoverished families on the outskirts of Leon, Mexico.

Who was the 2012 recipient?

The 2012 USF California Prize was awarded to the San Francisco Giants organization. Its Giants Community Fund, a nonprofit organization, has donated more than $14 million to community efforts that improve the lives of youth and their families since its beginning in 1991.

One of its more widely-recognized programs is The Junior Giants, which uses baseball to teach confidence, integrity, leadership and teamwork to at-risk youth, giving them an alternative to drugs, gangs and crime. More than 20,000 boys and girls now play in leagues in more than one hundred communities throughout Northern California, Nevada and Oregon.

Who else has been awarded?

The past awardees of the University of San Francisco California Prize for the Common Good have been:

  • 2011 Mr. Daniel Lurie, CEO of the nonprofit Tipping Point Community, which hashelped some 150,000 low-income residents of the Bay Area by identifying, funding and partnering with local nonprofits.
  • 2010 OneCalifornia Bank and Foundation (now One PacificCoast), an Oakland-based community development organization that strives to improve economic opportunity for low- and moderate-income communities throughout California.
  • 2009 Ms. Alice Waters, renowned chef and champion of food grown locally, who is credited with helping found the "slow food" movement that revolutionized how we think about sustainable and organic agriculture.
  • 2008 Mr. Lynn Fritz, social entrepreneur and founder of the Fritz Institute, who funds innovative systems and structures that improve the delivery of life-saving services after disaster strikes.

How do I make a contribution to the CA Prize?

Yes. You can make a tax-deductible contribution on our secure server at

Who should I contact for sponsorship and media queries?

For sponsorship details: Michelle Sklar, University of San Francisco, Office of Development: (415) 422-6657 or

For media queries: Anne-Marie Devine, Director of Media Relations: (415) 422-2697 or