Inaugural Donald L. Carano ’59 Alumni of the Year Award to Honor Mert Howard ’92
The USF School of Law’s most prestigious alumni award has been renamed the Donald L. Carano ’59 Alumni of the Year Award in honor of the late Don Carano, a leader in the wine and gaming industries and a proud “Double Don” who earned both his bachelor and law degrees from USF and was dedicated and generous in his support of USF.
The inaugural Donald L. Carano ’59 Alumni of the Year Award will be presented to Merton Howard ’92 at the Alumni Graduates Dinner May 16 at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco.
“The Carano family is honored by USF School of Law’s generous acknowledgement of my husband, Don, and his achievements by naming the alumni award the Donald L. Carano ’59 Alumni of the Year Award,” said Rhonda Carano. “Don embodied the USF School of Law ethics of dedication to higher education, philanthropy, community involvement and a life that was built on a strong foundation rooted in tradition, generosity, and spirituality. Don was a tireless supporter of the university, and he would be so humbled to receive this honor.”
Carano was a founder of the McDonald Carano law firm where he specialized in gaming and real estate development. He was a pioneering entrepreneur, opening the Eldorado Hotel-Casino in the 1970s, forever changing the landscape of downtown Reno. His love of food and wine led him to Sonoma County and the founding of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, helping to elevate the region’s wine and hospitality industries.
Beyond his business acumen, he was a generous philanthropist devoted to serving the people and communities around him. He served on the School of Law’s Board of Counselors and received the USF School of Law Alumni of the Year Award in 1999.
“We are deeply appreciative of the Carano family for granting us permission to name our alumni of the year award after Donald Carano '59,” said Michelle Sklar, assistant dean for development and alumni relations. “He was truly a ‘man for others’ in the Jesuit tradition who did well in life while also doing good. In naming our alumni award in his honor, we know our current students and newest alumni will benefit from learning about Don, his legacy, and the example he leaves for us all.”
This year’s Donald L. Carano ’59 Alumni of the Year Award recipient, Merton Howard, reflects the qualities that Carano embodied. A partner in the San Francisco office of Hanson Bridgett, Howard graduated first in his class and is an enthusiastic supporter of the School of Law. He served as president of the Board of Governors, mentors and hires law students, and serves as a faculty member for USF’s Intensive Advocacy Program.
“As the first recipient of this ‘new’ award named in Don's honor, Merton Howard is the epitome of who it is intended to recognize — an accomplished legal professional who generously supports the School of Law, including through service on alumni boards and mentoring and hiring students,” Sklar said. “Mert is also active in his community and the first person to raise his hand when the law school puts out a call for support. Mert and Don have a lot in common.”
The Alumni Graduates Dinner will also honor Chris Viadro ’92, who will receive the John J. Meehan Alumni Fellow award, which recognizes alumni who have provided outstanding mentorship to law students. A partner at Butler Viadro, LLP, Viadro is president of the Board of Governors and spearheaded the implementation of the law school’s Alumni Mentor Program. He serves as a mentor to multiple law students, maintaining those relationships even after they graduate as they launch their careers.
Registration is now open for the Alumni Graduates Dinner.