SJSU Establishes Scholarship Fund Endowed by Alumna, Lawyer and Political Advisor Nancy McFadden

Nancy McFadden (Photo: Bob Bain)

Nancy McFadden (Photo: Robert Bain)

Media contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748,
Robin McElhatton, 408-924-1749,

San Jose, Calif. — San Jose State University is pleased to announce the establishment of the Mary E. McFadden Nursing Scholarship Fund, made possible by a $230,000 gift from the estate of the late Nancy E. McFadden, a San Jose State alumna and former chief of staff to Governor Jerry Brown.

“Both Mary and Nancy McFadden were exemplary members of the San Jose State University Spartan community,” President Mary A. Papazian said. “They leveraged their educations to serve their families and communities while pursuing professional endeavors that made a real difference for our region, state and nation.”

Single mother Mary McFadden raised her children, Nancy and Bill, while working nights as a registered nurse at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara hospital. Nancy completed degrees at San Jose State University and the University of Virginia School of Law before beginning a career in public service that included the Clinton administration in Washington, D.C., and the Davis and Brown administrations in Sacramento.

“San Jose State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, through The Valley Foundation School of Nursing, is honored to be entrusted with the preservation of Mary and Nancy McFaddens’ SJSU legacy,” said Dean Mary Schutten. “Like Mary and Nancy McFadden, our nursing students seek to make an impact on their families and communities, and will benefit tremendously from this support.”

A Permanent Endowment

In accordance with the gift agreement, the McFadden gift will fund a permanent endowment to provide scholarships for students with demonstrated financial need who are enrolled in San Jose State’s nursing program. The scholarship will be awarded annually to one or more students, thereby making a significant impact on their educations.

“On behalf of the Tower Foundation of SJSU, I would like to thank the trustees of the Nancy McFadden estate for choosing to honor Nancy and Mary McFadden by creating an endowment to benefit students following in their footsteps,” said Vice President for University Advancement and Tower Foundation CEO Paul Lanning. “The foundation is honored to serve as the steward of these funds.”

A Commitment to Nursing

Nancy Elizabeth McFadden was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the eldest child of William McFadden and the former Mary Adams. The couple divorced when Nancy was a child, and Nancy moved with her mother and brother to San Jose.

Mary McFadden worked as a night nurse at Kaiser Santa Clara so that she could be available to her children, seeing them off to school in the morning and helping them after school through the early evening. Mary later became the night supervisor for the entire facility, and was beloved by her colleagues for her intelligence, sense of humor and practical nature. She worked until she was afflicted by a series of small strokes, passing away in 2000.

“Nancy had the highest respect for nurses and believed that nursing is a special calling. It was her fervent desire that students who need assistance to become nurses be given a helping hand to achieve their professional dreams,” wrote the trustees for Nancy McFadden’s estate.

“Best chief of staff”

Nancy McFadden attended San Jose State, where she was elected student body president and graduated with a bachelor’s in political science in 1984. After earning her law degree, she devoted most of her career to public service. She was deputy political director for the Clinton campaign; deputy associate attorney general under Janet Reno; general counsel to the U.S. Department of Transportation; and deputy chief of staff for Vice President Al Gore. After returning to California, McFadden served as senior advisor to Governor Gray Davis and chief of staff to Governor Jerry Brown.

McFadden counted among her greatest achievements spearheading a successful effort to extend the state’s extensive cap-and-trade program, setting a statewide limit on greenhouse-gas emissions. Her willingness to work for months and months behind the scenes to get things done was especially appreciated. Nancy McFadden died of ovarian cancer in March 2018 at age 59.

“Nancy was the best chief of staff a governor could ever ask for,” Governor Brown said. “She understood government and politics, she could manage, she was a diplomat and she was fearless. She could also write like no other. Nancy loved her job and we loved her doing it. This is truly a loss for me, for Anne, for our office, for Nancy’s family and close friends – and for all of California.”

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.