Kathy Kwan: Supporting the Leaders of Tomorrow at San Francisco State University

By Gail Mallimson, University Development

In May 2020 Kathy Kwan’s philanthropic foundation, the Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation, donated $1 million to San Francisco State University’s Career Services & Leadership Development (CSLD) program and the University’s HOPE Crisis Fund. The HOPE Crisis Fund provides emergency funding to San Francisco State’s students and has received more than 1,300 requests ($2.4 million) from students in need since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kathy’s two-year pledge to support the CSLD program will help the program offer career services to students and alumni, a vital service in post-pandemic job markets.

Orlando Harris, Director of CSLD (left) and Kathy Kwan (right)
Orlando Harris, Director of CSLD (left) and Kathy Kwan (right)

As a lifelong resident of the Bay Area, Kathy Kwan is uniquely poised to understand the impact a degree from SF State can have on students and the community. When her parents Benson Kwan (B.S., ’64) and Helen Chang Kwan (A.B., ’61) graduated from SF State in the early 1960s, they were the first generation in their families to earn college degrees. Growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, they endured discrimination and limited economic opportunity but were helped by local organizations that offered support and leadership development.

In her role today as philanthropist and major donor to SF State’s Career Services & Leadership Development program, Kathy often meets students whose backgrounds are similar to those of her parents. Through the Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation, Kathy’s support of CSLD is now in its 6th year and is focused on providing students with the soft skills and leadership development workshops needed to embark on fruitful careers – the kind of support that many students at more well-endowed colleges often receive as a matter of course through their personal networks. 

“Philanthropy has allowed me to develop a perspective on what students need over and above academic preparation.”
-Kathy Kwan, Philanthropist

Kathy, a lead donor to the University’s successfully completed BOLD Thinking campaign, has been instrumental in the founding and growth of CSLD, a partnership that reflects her philanthropic ethos. “Philanthropy has allowed me to develop a perspective on what students need over and above academic preparation,” says Kathy. “University graduates today need to know how to project-manage, how to think critically, how to work in teams, and develop good communication skills. We need to create experiences that are not overwhelmingly time-intensive and that prepare students to be able to land a job and be successful.” 

CSLD offers students and alumni career-oriented training, job preparation, and job search technology, and connects students to mentoring, internships, and careers through job fairs and outreach. CSLD also runs the President’s Leadership Fellows Program, an intensive semester-long program that has trained over 1000 students in career-related skills. The program originated in the College of Business with an initial cohort of 25 fellows in 2014, and today serves students from across the campus. 

CSLD's President's Leadership Fellows workshop
CSLD's President's Leadership Fellows workshop
CSLD's President's Leadership Fellows participants
CSLD's President's Leadership Fellows workshop

In addition to the President’s Leadership Fellows Program, Kathy has been instrumental in helping CSLD develop a full suite of opportunities and tools for students and alumni. The Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation has previously donated more than $2.3 million to CSLD, which has funded technology that trains and mentors students and connects them with jobs, one-on-one career coaching, job, and graduate school fairs, staffing, and workshops, and facilitated internships in addition to the fellowship program. The program has been tremendously successful, with over 22,000 touchpoints regarding career-building in 2018-2019 alone.

“Kathy is an engaged philanthropist. She is a true partner. She not only provides financial support, but she also provides intellectual support and is always encouraging us. It's extremely important to have that.”
-Orlando Harris, Director of CSLD

Working with CSLD has been a learning experience for Kathy as well. In 2004, her life and career radically changed when she and her husband Alan Eustace, a Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google, benefitted from Google’s IPO. Kathy retired from her position as Chief of Staff at Kaiser Permanente. According to Kathy, “you could characterize me completely as a self-taught philanthropist. I started funding in 2006, and now the foundation has granted more than $43 million. I landed at SF State, and the results have been excellent. What I really appreciate about San Francisco State University is its capacity and speed in execution. Whatever we negotiate, that’s what actually appears.”

Kathy continues to grow her work with CSLD and has partnered to attract new donors to the program and develop new programming. After five years, many of the original students served by CSLD have launched their careers, and the program’s success is evident. “If you can get a student into the mentorship program, and then they go through career services and leadership, their chances of getting a great position is much higher than if they were left on their own,” says Kathy. “In a lot of ways, San Francisco State University is a true engine of mobility.”

For more information, contact:

Anjali Billa ( She/Her/Hers )
Associate Vice President
University Development
(415) 405-3625