2014 Recipients: Joe and Terri Gaffney

St. Ignatius Medal Award – Joe & Terri Gaffney – 2014 from Seattle University on Vimeo.

As SU undergraduates engaged in service to others, it was only natural that Joe Gaffney and Terri Shank would cross paths, but they didn't know each other well. Not until a summer leadership retreat in 1966. As they stood chatting on a log at Camp Casey, Joe and Terri could feel the attraction.

Joe says that even before Terri invited him to the Silver Scroll TOLO, their first official date, she knew his answer would be, "Yes." Later that year, they attended the Military Ball together-Terri as the Queen and Joe as the Brigade Commander of the ROTC. That was the moment when everything clicked. Soon, their parents were getting together for dinner, and everyone knew Joe and Terri were headed for the altar.

Assuming that Joe would be sent to Vietnam, the couple decided they'd marry when he got back. But those plans changed when Joe's orders were for Korea and Terri discovered she could live there on a tourist visa. They were married a year after graduation.

Terri moved to Korea a month later and the newlyweds lived "on the economy" in Seoul. There were few other young American couples to talk to, and no way to call home. Joe and Terri found strength in their faith and in each other. "We were a real partnership," Joe and Terri will tell you. "The sum of the parts was greater than the whole."  It was an exciting adventure that whetted their appetite for travel.

His tour of duty over, Joe attended law school in San Francisco, while Terri taught junior high. In 1972, the Gaffneys returned to Seattle where they eventually became the parents of three children, Ben, Kevin and Katie. Today, Joe is a successful tax and estate planning attorney at the international law firm of Dorsey & Whitney, LLP. Terri holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Seattle University. She is a spiritual director and has taught in the School of Theology and Ministry (STM).

Unwavering Support for SU

"Any time there is a project that comes up for the university, we all think of Terri and Joe," says Father Pat Howell, S.J., Professor of Pastoral Theology. Joe served on the Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2004, following eight years as a Regent. He has been involved in every SU capital campaign beginning with the 21st Century Campaign in 1980, and he led the university's Planned Giving Committee.  Joe is currently a member of the SU Trustees' Investment Committee. 

For her part, Terri served on the board for the School of Theology and Ministry since its inception and was co-chair.  She served on the Planning Committee for St. Ignatius Chapel.  As the only woman on the Art Committee for the Chapel, Terri was instrumental in choosing the sculptor who created the Marian shrine. "It represents an outpouring of blessing," she says. "An outpouring of grace."  Terri is currently a member of the Catholic Jesuit Identity Committee which advises the SU Board of Trustees.

Together, Joe and Terri have served on the SU Centennial Committee, the STM New Home Committee and chaired the annual SU Gala in 1991 and 2009. They are among the creators of two endowments: the Patrick J. Howell, S.J. Professorship of Theology and Ministry, and the Loretta Jancoski Endowed Scholarship.

"Joe and Terri are inspirational ambassadors for the university's Legacy Society," says Sarah Finney, Senior Director of Planned Giving. "They understand the tremendous impact and legacy of giving, both now and in the future, through charitable estate planning."

Passionate about higher education, the Gaffneys are tireless in their efforts to help students pursue a college education. As general counsel and a board member of the College Success Foundation since its inception in 1998, Joe helped CSF raise funds to provide support services and award over $200 million in college scholarships to underrepresented students.

Grounded in Faith. Generous of Spirit

Rooted in their faith, and reinforced by their experiences at SU, is the teaching: "Of those who are given much, much is expected." Since the earliest days of their marriage, the Gaffneys have contributed what they could, both to their church and to organizations they care about.

 "We always tithed, no matter how much money we had," says Terri. Joe adds, "Right from the beginning, we were doing a lot of community involvement: giving time, treasure, talent."

"As philanthropists, the Gaffneys share what they have, graciously and with wide open hearts," says Julie Davis, former Assistant to the Dean, School of Theology and Ministry. "Their giving is quiet, effective and life-changing, infused with a reverence for life and the gifts they have received."

Through good times and tough times, Joe and Terri's Catholic faith sustains them. Since 1973, Joe has met weekly with a small prayer group that grew out of the Cursillo retreat. Terri's involvement with the STM has provided a way to stay grounded and deepen her faith. In her work as a spiritual director, she helps others find similar grace. "I would say facilitating retreats and serving as a spiritual director is where my heart is," says Terri.

"The thing that gives me a lot of energy," says Joe, "is working with people to solve problems. Today, one of the really good things is mentoring younger people." Indeed, Joe has assisted young attorneys just starting out in their careers. He helped start Seattle's first Neighborhood Legal Clinic, where he volunteers to this day.

Fr. Howell describes the Gaffneys' marriage as "a loving dynamo of invitation and hospitality." Whether they are hosting a neighborhood Christmas gathering, sharing career advice or praying with a small group, the couple's hearts are as open as their home.

In addition to their involvement with SU, together or separately Joe and Terri have served on numerous boards of directors and/or committees including The Seattle Foundation, ArtsFund, Roots of South Sudan, Ignatian Spirituality Center, Catholic Community Services, Seattle Preparatory School, Forest Ridge School, St. Joseph's School, Independent Colleges of Washington, Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, and Seattle Youth Symphony.

"The breadth of what they do is far beyond what ordinary people do."  

-Loretta Jancoski, Dean Emerita, School of Theology and Ministry

One shining example of Joe and Terri's many contributions to the local community is the couple's involvement with Full Life Care Services, an organization that supports adults with chronic illnesses, disabilities or dementia.

Full Life Executive Director Nora Gibson has known the Gaffneys since the mid-1980's, when they were helping their friend Betty Sanders launch a small adult day health program called ElderHealth Northwest. Terri says the idea was simple: "To keep people in their homes as long as possible."

The whole Gaffney family has been involved with the organization now known as Full Life Care. At the beginning, board meetings were held in the Gaffneys' living room. The children served refreshments and grew up volunteering in the day centers. Today, Full Life Care serves over 2,000 families in five locations.

Joe and Terri have always been beacons of support for Nora Gibson and for Full Life. "I can always go to them," Gibson says. "If they think of something that would be helpful, I will get a call. I get honest feedback and judicious advice. And Joe backs it up by making the necessary community connections."

Their lives-both as individuals and as a couple-benefit everyone they touch. "It's like the world is their family, and they tend to it," says Loretta Jancoski, Dean Emerita, School of Theology and Ministry.  

Leading by Example 

In their life and work together, Joe and Terri Gaffney embody the ideal we hope all Seattle University students and alumni will emulate. Perhaps Fr. Howell sums it up best: "Joe and Terri's commitment to a just and humane world is what activates them, what captures their energy. Their contributions-through their attitude, their take on life, their hospitality and their generosity-help to make Seattle University's commitment to its mission even stronger."