Tucci Family Scholarships
Tucci Family Scholarship
Established in 1984; first awards were in 1990 for deserving students.
Established in 1997; first awards were in 1997 for civil engineering majors from Washington state who have successfully completed their freshman year.
Tucci Family Florence Scholarship
Established in 2005; first awards were in 2006 for students participating in the Gonzaga-in-Florence Program.
If you've ever taken a drink at the water fountain in Rogues' Gallery on the first floor of College Hall, you've probably seen the father of this true-blue Gonzaga family. There, looking up in yesteryear's uniform is Michael J. Tucci. This man, who came here on a football scholarship and became team captain and All-Coast as a senior (1936), was the first in a long and continuing line of Tuccis at GU. While football ended at Gonzaga in 1942, the Tucci family legacy is stronger than ever. Three generations of Tuccis have graduated from Gonzaga and the fourth is on the way. Since Michael J. Tucci graduated in 1936, a descendant has graduated every 25 years; Michael A. graduated in 1961, followed by his son Michael F. in 1986 and son, Tim followed in 1987. (Their sister, Maria, graduated from the University of Portland.)
Gonzaga's first Michael Tucci, the son of an immigrant tailor, came to the University without much money but with the means to earn: an iron given to him by his father. That iron remains a family keepsake. "My grandfather sent my father to Gonzaga with an ironing board and a pressing iron and said, ‘You can earn your spending money that way.' He pressed the clothes for the Jesuits and schoolmates," Michael A. recalled. "My grandfather didn't have any money to speak of. Times were tough in the ‘30s."
Witnessing what one person's GU education has spawned is remarkable. Without Michael Tucci's football scholarship, however, it all might not have been. "My grandfather might never have had the experience of a Gonzaga education without receiving financial aid," Michael F. said.
Michael A. said his grandfather, Alexander, came from the Calabria area of Southern Italy and went first to Davenport, Iowa, where relatives lived before going to tailoring school in New York City. Alexander then returned to Italy to marry his sweetheart Clara before they returned to America to stay. Alexander Tucci instilled in his children a strong sense of ethics, and of giving back.
The Tuccis' Gonzaga roots run wide and deep. Jo Ann Tucci LeJeune ('65) – one of Michael A.'s two sisters – was part of the first Gonzaga-in-Florence class, and married Jerry LeJeune ('64); their son Josh LeJeune ('96) also attended Florence. Mary Lou Tucci Xitco ('67), Michael A.'s other sister, also studied in Florence. And Mary Jo (McKinnon) Tucci attended GU for two years before marrying Michael A. and moving to Tacoma where she graduated from Pacific Lutheran University.
Michael A. said his father worked hard and was persistent. After Gonzaga, Michael J. worked for Boeing before taking a chance on his own business, a combination grocery/feed store in McMillan, Washington. "He then sold the store and coached football at Bellarmine Prep for a year before he bought a construction company in 1950 as a 50-percent partner," Michael A. recalls. "He knew nothing about construction but actually went out and worked on the jobs with the guys. It was a very small company. We were utility contractors and my dad worked in the ditch for a year. Literally, he learned the business from the ground up." After three years as a co-owner, Michael J. bought out his partner and owned the company. "That was when the business began to grow by leaps and bounds," Michael A. said. "He was a very ambitious entrepreneur to come from nothing and build a business that was one of the bigger contracting businesses in Pierce County when he died."
Michael J., a Gonzaga Regent and member of the first graduating class from the Jesuit-run Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, died of cancer in 1973 at age 63. His son Michael A. also was a Regent in the 1980s, and now his son Michael F. ('86) – who met his wife Mimi at Gonzaga-in-Florence – is a Regent. While Michael A. attended GU before the Florence program existed, both his sons attended Gonzaga-in-Florence.
Michael A. said he gives to Gonzaga for many reasons. "It's the community. You get a well-rounded education, you are taught ethics and morality, and throughout you receive a deep religious base of course," he said. "The Jesuits have a lot to do with it. We are proud of building our family endowments at Gonzaga. It had a special place in my father's heart."
Michael F. concurred. "There are a lot of family connections, it's a great school and I like the whole idea of a Jesuit education," he said. "Gonzaga provides so much to its students. The small classes, a concerned and caring faculty and administration, and a great community in which you learn the Jesuit ideas of educating the whole person, both spiritually as well as intellectually." Tim ('87) agreed. "It's important to provide for the diversity of the school. It should not be such that those who can't afford it can't go there," Tim said. "Let's face it, it's not cheap but that's OK, that's the cost of doing things. However, it would be unfortunate if it precluded people from experiencing Gonzaga on that basis alone. The best way to help people is to educate them, I believe."
Michael A. said it is family tradition to sit down together at year's end and decide where to direct their donations. Education at Gonzaga, which has played such a significant role in the Tucci family history, is a priority.
"It is really important to establish that as a parent. When you are young and blessed with a good family and a lot of material things, we should be good stewards of those gifts," Michael A. said. "You've got to gather and establish a pattern of giving. I think we're going to have a few more Gonzaga graduates in the next generation."