USF Welcomes What If? Founder Margaret Trost at May 18 Commencement

SAN FRANCISCO (May 16, 2013)

The University of San Francisco (USF) will present an honorary doctorate in humane letters to Margaret Trost, founder of the What If? Foundation, this Sat., May 18, at 6 p.m. The What If? Foundation teams with its Haitian partners to fund programs in the Ti Plas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince that provide 6,000 meals each week, more than 200 school scholarships each year, an after-school program for 240 youth, and a summer camp for 550 children. The What If? Foundation is the only funder of these community-based programs.

“Margaret Trost has been working with poor Haitians for more than a decade,” said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., who will confer the honorary degree during the graduation ceremony for more than 300 graduate students of USF’s Masagung Graduate School of Management. “She certainly exemplifies the truism of the founder of the Jesuit order, Ignatius of Loyola, that love shows itself in deeds more than in words. What if everyone lived this maxim as well as Margaret?”

“I am deeply honored to receive this honorary doctorate from the University of San Francisco, which inspires me through its commitment to use academic excellence as a vehicle for creating a more humane and just world,” said Trost. “I am especially grateful for this opportunity to share my experiences with the next generation of leaders as they prepare to use their skills and knowledge in the pursuit of social justice.”

In 2000, Trost traveled to Haiti for the first time to volunteer at a hospice founded by Mother Teresa. She was inspired by the faith and dedication of the sisters who administered to the people, but was overwhelmed by the suffering she saw throughout Port-au-Prince, especially among children, many of whom experienced daily hunger and faced disease related to acute malnutrition and the absence of clean drinking water. During her visit, she met Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest, now deceased, and a 2006 USF honorary degree recipient, who told Trost of the hunger most children experienced there. Motivated to make a difference, Trost returned to California and founded the What If? Foundation to support food and education programs for impoverished children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Trost credits the success of What If? to the collaboration with the foundation’s Haitian partners, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the aide directly benefits children.

The graduation ceremony will take place at St. Ignatius Catholic Church on the USF campus—located at 650 Parker Ave. (at Fulton Street) in San Francisco.

To request interviews with Ms. Trost or USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., please contact Anne-Marie Devine, senior director of media relations at USF, 415.422.2697 or

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