Hope on the Hilltop

by Elliott Gentile, Office of Development Communications

Al Schubert ’79, the second youngest child of New Mexico cattle ranchers, walked outside of the San Francisco, California bank where he was taking out a student loan.

Schubert’s father agreed to help pay for his first semester of college at the University of San Francisco, but his father could not afford to help after that. As Schubert exited the building, his older sister motioned toward two ornate spires peeping out above the rows of buildings.

Schubert recalls his sister telling him to look up the hill as the duo walked towards the spires of St. Ignatius Church. Schubert was days away from the start of his freshman year at USF and this was the very first time he had ever set foot on campus.

Schubert recalls entering the church and experiencing an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness wash over him. He was so thankful that he would be able to attend USF because he didn’t think that he would be able to, considering his family’s economic reality. Schubert had tried to earn an athletic scholarship to pay for college, but when that fell through, he decided to move west to San Francisco to attend USF, even if it meant he could only afford one semester.

Little did Schubert know on the day he stepped foot on campus, that his connection with the university would go far beyond a single semester, and he would in time pay it forward as an alumnus.

Taking a Chance on Himself

Shortly before moving to San Francisco, Schubert’s high school guidance counselor Ms. Marek gave the three-sport varsity athlete one of the most formative pieces of advice he ever received: “Here’s the deal. You are an achiever in athletics so I recommend that you take that drive and study lights out in the classroom. Let USF know that their choice of you will be rewarded by the type of work you are capable of doing.”

Towards the end of his first semester, Schubert accepted that his time at USF was coming to a close. Despite the looming reality that he’d soon be leaving the university, he celebrated how he leaned into Ms. Marek’s advice and put in the hard work to earn straight A’s for the first time. In one semester at USF, Schubert transformed his mediocre high school academic performance to one of excellence.

To his surprise, Schubert began to be showered in grace after a stellar first semester. USF awarded him an academic scholarship for his remaining time at USF and he was selected as a resident advisor, which covered his room and board. With this, he was able to remain at USF and complete his degree.

“USF responded when I needed help the most and in turn, it shaped me into who I have become,” Schubert recalled with gratitude.

An Education to Last a Lifetime

USF continued to support Shubert in other ways beyond financial assistance, such as laying a strong foundation in entrepreneurship through the business courses. Additionally, thanks to the guidance of university leadership, Schubert and a fellow classmate developed a plan to bus USF students to watch USF compete in the NCAA basketball tournament games in Arizona and Utah for a small fee. These lessons, and more, carried over to how Schubert operates in the business world today.

For Schubert, the opportunity to extend his time at USF formed him into the man that he is today, both as a father and a businessman. He often refers to the adage, “All I really need to know about life, I learned in kindergarten” with a twist - “All I really need to know about life, I learned at USF” - to highlight the significance of the university’s impact on his life’s trajectory.

Specifically, he says USF not only taught him how to be successful in business with his coursework but also how the life lessons he learned while at USF prepared him to overcome challenges and find joy beyond college and into adulthood. He credits this to USF’s focus on cura personalis or care of the whole person. For Schubert, this entailed finding an intricate balance between spiritual, academic, and physical health.

“My experience at USF laid the foundation for what I continue to use to this day – in life and business,” Schubert explained. “USF had the most profound impact on my life than any other institution by a wide margin.”

Paying it Forward

Schubert simply wanted to do something profound for the university as a way to pay forward all the good that USF did for him in his life. Not only did Schubert decide to pledge an estate gift, but he also has been a donor to USF for 19 consecutive years and is a proud member of the Fr. John Lo Schiavo Legacy Society.

“My hope is that my estate and what I do for the university will help and motivate people to not only give themselves but help the next generation so that they can have similar experiences to what I had, particularly those who aren’t of economic means to go to a university,” Schubert said.

To learn more about supporting the University of San Francisco by pledging an estate gift, please contact the Office of Gift Planning at (415) 422-4163 or

This gift was made in support of Changing the World from Here: Campaign for the University of San Francisco.