University of Southern California

Office of the President

C. L. Max Nikias

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Viterbis honored at 10th anniversary of naming gift

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C. L. Max Nikias, Niki C. Nikias, Erna Viterbi, Andrew Viterbi

C. L. Max Nikias, Niki C. Nikias, Erna Viterbi, Andrew Viterbi

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering community celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the school’s naming gift on Sept. 30, 2014. The $52 million gift was generously bestowed by Andrew and Erna Viterbi in 2004, and the gift was a milestone for the university under the dean of that time, C. L. Max Nikias, now president of USC.

Communications pioneer and USC Trustee Andrew J. Viterbi — who in 1962 earned one of the first doctorates in electrical engineering granted at the University of Southern California — is widely recognized as the engineer whose work enabled the development of CDMA mobile phones, wi-fi, and host of other current technologies.

Message to Ambassadors

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September 30, 2014

As the academic year moves forward, Niki and I reflect on the first full month of classes with tremendous pride and gratitude. The USC community has celebrated a number of landmark events in the past few weeks, highlighted by the groundbreaking for the USC Village, the largest development project in the history of USC, and, we believe, the history of south Los Angeles.

USC’s first-rate faculty and student body need first-rate facilities, and Los Angeles needs its private university—its largest private employer—to be at its best, its most productive and influential. The USC Village—with its majestic architecture, park-like piazza at the center, and ground floor lined by trees and filled with cafés and restaurants—will serve as an inviting new town square for all members of our community, and create a true home away from home for our students. It will add 2,700 beds for student housing, dramatically increasing the university’s residential space, and include a gym and a Trader Joe’s grocery store that will serve our entire neighborhood.

Leavey Honors Hall at the USC Village
The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Honors Hall will stand at the heart of the USC Village, and house up to 600 of our most academically ambitious students. Leavey Honors Hall was made possible by a generous $30 million gift from Trustee Kathleen McCarthy and her family’s foundation, and speaks to her longstanding commitment to our undergraduate students. In Leavey Honors Hall, our students will enjoy an unsurpassed range of options for academic, social, and cultural growth, as they work with, and live alongside, our most distinguished faculty. I am particularly pleased that Mrs. McCarthy has stepped forward with the first major gift to our USC Village.

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. McCarthy’s support continues a suite of stellar gifts from trustees, including a historic $20 million gift from Trustee Ronnie Chan and his wife, Barbara, directed in support of our top-ranked occupational science and occupational therapy program. The Chans’ gift honors Ronnie’s dear mother, and will endow and name the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. This is the first naming gift and the largest ever made to any occupational therapy program in the history of the field.

Their gift also greatly extends the division’s international reach, as it creates the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Occupational Therapy China Initiative, which will establish a partnership with a top Chinese university to develop a graduate program in occupational therapy in China. In addition, this gift endows the Mrs. T.H. Chan Professorship in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, which will be held by the division’s leader, Dr. Florence Clark. The Chans’ gift—their third major gift to USC—reflects their family’s ongoing dedication to the university.

Dauterive Hall welcomes scholars
Earlier this month, the USC community came together to formally dedicate Dr. Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall, the university’s first interdisciplinary social sciences building. Trustee Verna Dauterive—a two-time alumna of USC—committed the $30 million gift in memory of her late husband, Peter, a graduate of our Marshall School of Business. The couple met in Doheny Memorial Library during their student days. At the dedication ceremony, Dr. Dauterive said, “I am deeply humbled and very excited about the building, but I am even more excited about what will happen inside: gifted bright stars working together to change the world in wonderful ways that will create brighter futures for all societies.”

Viterbi professors honored for innovation
MIT Technology Review recently published its prestigious annual list of Innovators Under 35, all exceptionally talented technologists whose work has tremendous potential to transform the world. USC faculty routinely appear on the list, and this year, an impressive three USC Viterbi faculty were recognized: Professor George Ban-Weiss, as a humanitarian for his contributions to climate research; Professor Megan McCain, as a pioneer who advances personalized cardiac medicines; and Professor Maryam Shanechi, as a pioneer who uses control theory to understand the brain.

Judge Widney statue dedicated
As the semester began, our campus community came together for a memorable ceremony to dedicate a statue in honor of Judge Robert Maclay Widney, USC’s chief architect and founder. Judge Widney played a seminal role in USC’s birth and early growth. He personally drafted the university’s articles of incorporation, served as the first chairman of our Board of Trustees, and donated $100,000—an extraordinary amount in that age—for the university’s first endowment fund. He was a dreamer and a builder, and through force of will, he reimagined a region and the destinies of countless others who would follow here. For generations of Trojans, this statue will serve as a monument to his permanent place in USC history.

Yours truly,

C. L. Max Nikias

President Nikias honored at LAPD Museum Gala

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On September 20,  2014, USC President C. L. Max Nikias was honored as the recipient of the Los Angeles Police Museum’s 21st Annual Jack Webb Awards. The award is presented annually to individuals who make positive contributions to their communities by partnering with law enforcement.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck presented the Award to President Nikias in recognition of his and USC’s longstanding work and close cooperation.

Beck said, “President Nikias has been an extraordinary partner and exceptional friend, not only to me, but to the men and women who proudly serve the City of Los Angeles. He exemplifies the values and traditions of the Los Angeles Police Department and is deserving of the Jack Webb Award for his significant commitment to the LAPD and life-long support of the entire law enforcement community.”

USC Village – For Students and Neighbors

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(left to right) Community representative Maria Guadalupe Garrido, graduate student government President Yohey Tokumitsu, Vice Provost, Student Affairs Ainsley Carry, USC Trustee Kathleen McCarthy, USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Tomas, Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price and undergraduate student government President Andrew Menard during the USC Village Groundbreaking Celebration. (USC Photo/ Gus Ruelas)

(left to right) Community representative Maria Guadalupe Garrido, graduate student government President Yohey Tokumitsu, Vice Provost, Student Affairs Ainsley Carry, USC Trustee Kathleen McCarthy, USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Tomas, Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price and undergraduate student government President Andrew Menard during the USC Village Groundbreaking Celebration. (USC Photo/ Gus Ruelas)

Hundreds of supporters, civic leaders, and USC leadership arrived for the historic groundbreaking of the USC Village—a new student housing, retail, and dining center adjacent to the USC campus. In attendance were Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Councilmember Curren Price, former Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Mitch Englander, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and Compton Mayor Aja Brown.

The biggest development in the history of USC at $650 million, the project also will be one of the largest in the history of South Los Angeles, providing thousands of jobs and pumping billions of dollars into the local economy.

Phase one of this development project involves 1.25 million square feet of land that includes greenspace space, retail space, communal space and residential housing, all within a masterpiece of collegiate Gothic architecture redefined for the 21st century.

A special guest at the event was USC Trustee Kathleen Leavey McCarthy, who, with the Leavey Foundation donated $30 million to create the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Honors Hall at the new USC Village.

Read more at USC News.

NCAA Compliance Meeting for Incoming Student-Athletes

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September 2, 2014
C. L. Max Nikias

Good morning!  I’m delighted to be here, and to personally welcome you all to the Trojan Family.  Your time at USC is going to be one of the most meaningful experiences of your life, an experience that will indeed last a lifetime.  Once you become a Trojan, you are a Trojan for life.

Today I also want to affirm USC’s commitment to sportsmanship, embodied in the NCAA’s rules and regulations.  They represent the guidelines to which we and our competitors have agreed to abide.  They represent the foundation of sportsmanship and the foundation of our own efforts to reach greatness.

But first, I’d like to begin by thanking our athletic director.  One of the high points of my time as USC president has been the opportunity to work alongside Pat Haden.  I am grateful for how he took on this challenging assignment, at a particularly challenging time.

Years from now, people will be singing the praises of Pat Haden for his patient and principled and firm leadership—for how he brought USC Athletics through an important era of renewal, even as intercollegiate athletics themselves are going through a transformation nationally.

I also want to thank Dave Roberts, our vice president for compliance, and Clare Pastore, our Faculty Athletic Representative, for their incredible leadership, wisdom, and hard work.  They have our student-athletes on course for the greatest success in life.  But they also understand that we are in a sensitive position.

Even while the NCAA is undergoing dramatic changes, any new infractions here could be seen as repeat violations that would bring severe punishment to our programs.  So even a minor, debatable, unintentional violation by anyone associated with USC could take our destiny out of our own hands, and place it in the hands of others.

We must do our best to keep this from happening.  While the rules may be evolving, let ourselves continue to be guided by timeless codes of honor.  Protect your team, and expect them to protect one another, rather than to look out for their individual interests.  Avoid making serious mistakes, and avoid making silly mistakes.

At USC, we speak of winning with integrity.  Integritas was a Latin term.  It stood for wholeness, for completeness.  Only something that was whole and complete could be seen as good and pure.

Let me tell you how special you are.  Last year we received 53,000 applications for the 2,700 seats in our freshman class.  The applicants were extraordinary—some of the best in America.  It’s a reminder that it is very hard to become a student at the University of Southern California, and you are now one of them.

But it is even harder—much harder—to be a student-athlete at USC.  I know you must make sacrifices that ordinary students do not make.  Sacrifices that athletes elsewhere do not make.  I understand that.  I deeply appreciate that.

But I know that this is for a reason: Because you are not ordinary people.  You are Trojan student-athletes, who have been marked out for greatness.  We will be here for you, to help you reach greatness.

In this regard, your coaches are your teachers, just like the professors in the classroom.  All of them have been instructed to teach discipline and character to you.

Why?  Because “Character is destiny.”  A man or woman’s character is what inevitably shapes the course of her life.  Through the centuries, this timeless truth has been reaffirmed by figures from Pericles to George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Vince Lombardi.

You probably know that USC has produced more Olympians than any other school in the world.  If USC competed as a separate nation, the Trojan Nation, our 288 all-time Summer Olympics medals would rank 16th most in the world, while our 135 gold medals would rank 12th.

I love this link to the great Olympics of antiquity.  Those games celebrated excellence in mind and body and spirit.  Excellence in all things!  Like no other university community in America, the USC Trojans embody that ideal here in our day.

The ancient Greeks took this Olympic competition more seriously than life itself.  Even if ancient Greek nation-states were at war, they were expected to honor a truce, allowing athletes to travel freely to the games.

Do you know why some of the decisive battles in the history of Western civilization, like Marathon and Salamis, were fought in the month of September?  Because foreign armies knew the Greeks would be obsessed with the Olympics in August.  So invading armies tried to use that timing to their personal advantage.

From those first Olympics, I would like to offer to some observations about honor and sportsmanship.  In the original Olympic games, the winner received not a medal but a simple wreath made of a humble olive branch—just an ordinary and common object.

But that ordinary and common object had been infused with special significance:  It represented honor, which was worth more than silver or gold.  This too shocked outsiders, who wondered, “What sort of people compete so passionately for honor, rather than for money or fame?”  The answer is that it was the kind of people who would go on to provide the foundation for much of the greatness that we enjoy in today’s world.

There are two contrasting examples of that ancient quest for glory.  First, there is the cautionary tale of a boxer named Eupolus, who was one of the first athletes accused of disgracing the games in 388 B.C.  Eupolus bribed three competitors to let him win, so that he could receive the olive wreath of victory.

But it was taken from him, and he and the other three were all punished.  They paid fines, they were flogged, and they were officially purged from the memory of society.  Society always punishes cheaters and those who break the rules—never do that.

But in contrast there is the powerful example of a young man named Mandrogenes, who excelled in the sport of pankration.  This was an intense combination of boxing and wresting. Mandrogenes would win with honor, but then he would always insist, “The credit goes to my coach, who is my teacher.”  That spirit is the spirit of USC Athletics.

Mandrogenes’ coach once wrote to the young man’s mother about his unceasing, relentless determination in what was sometimes a very deadly sport.  The coach wrote: “If you should hear that your son is dead, believe it.  But if you hear that he is defeated, do not believe it!”

Mandrogenes did “Fight On,” indeed, with all his might, all his being, and all his honor. Always remember to give credit to your coaches.  It doesn’t matter how good you are.  Your coaches are your teachers.  Acknowledge them, and give them credit.

We see that same spirit today, here at USC.  We see it in our athletic director and our coaches.  We see it in the legendary alumni who return here to inspire new generations of student-athletes like yourselves.  And we look forward to seeing it in you when you return, years from now, to inspire and teach the next generation of Trojans.

Bear in mind that, on average, you will live to the age of 90, thanks to medical advances. In other words, most of you here will be alive for 70 years after your USC career is over. Even many of the most successful ones, who will be inducted into Halls of Fame, will be alive for 60 years upon the end of your athletic careers.

So, for USC, everything that we do—everything!—is done with an eye toward who you will be over the long course of your lifetime.  Remember:  Most of your life will come after your playing days.  The crowds will grow silent as you grow older.  Your life will then consist of what you have begun to build here:  good relationships, good education, and above all a good reputation.

Yes, we speak of NCAA “compliance” today, but let us continue speaking of character, which understands compliance, but which rises above compliance.  Compliance is a stumbling block for most people, but it is a stepping stone for those with high character. That is true greatness.  It results from simple, hard work, and from good choices.

I am proud and pleased that you have made some wonderful choices so far:

You did not choose to pursue a degree from an ordinary college.  You chose to have the life-changing experience of an extraordinary university with excellent academic programs.

You did not choose to live in an average city.  You chose to spend your college years in one of the most exciting cities in the world.  You passed up Florida and Alabama and South Bend and Eugene and Nebraska and Palo Alto.  You came here, to the heart of Los Angeles, the most exciting city in the world!

No university in America combines USC’s undisputed commitment to championship athletics with excellent academics.  No one else offers USC’s combination of quality and location, and worldwide alumni network and alumni life, and intellectual and social and cultural variety. Forget whoever claims to be the gold standard for academics and athletics combined: USC is building the platinum standard.

Remember: You are on the big stage now, under the bright, wonderful spotlight of Los Angeles.  How you carry yourself will bring honor to your mothers and your fathers.  You don’t lie, as the truth always comes out.  How you compete will be watched by all.  How you excel will inspire children around the country.

And it will strengthen those lifelong bonds that connect 300,000 members of the Trojan Family around the world.

So make it your non-negotiable goal to make the very most of these coming years.  Make your experience here something that can last through all the decades of your long life. Give your Trojan Family your best, and we will give you our best, for the rest of your life.

Welcome again to this Trojan Family, thank you—and Fight On, always!

Judge Robert Maclay Widney Statue Unveiling

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August 29, 2014
By C. L. Max Nikias

It is a tremendous pleasure to welcome you all on this historic day for our university.  Today, the University of Southern California is a global institution that moves the world in every realm of human endeavor.  USC is also a place that is rich with symbols and traditions and values unlike any other institution of higher learning.

These symbols and traditions root us in the past, guide us in our current work, and inspire every tomorrow.  They forge our ethos and mission, tempering our character and potential in the hearth of destiny.  Yet every great institution can point to very humble beginnings.

As Virgil wrote in his classic epic, The Aeneid, mighty Rome could trace its descendants and humble beginnings to the often fruitless wanderings of the exiled Trojan hero Aeneas.  It is at these times that unbounded dreams intersect with unfulfilled potential.

Today, we honor the life and legacy of a man who stood at the brink of promise.  Through sheer determination and a decade of relentless effort, this towering figure bent the arc of destiny and brought our beloved university into being.

That man was Judge Robert Maclay Widney.

Judge Widney was the chief architect and the founder of USC.  When he arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1860s, it was mostly a dusty village in a lonely frontier in the American Wild West.  It was also barren of any dynamic educational institutions.  But Judge Widney saw something special.

One night he stood in an empty field not far from here.  And in that quiet field, Judge Widney had a dream.  He looked around, and saw one of the most favorable environments ever known to humanity:  majestic mountains with snow in the winter within easy reach; a vast ocean nearby, which offered open access to the world; and a climate designed by heaven itself, offering the unlimited expression of the human mind, body, and spirit.

This, he said, is where the next great world city will arise—this is where the next great world university will arise.

That night, a spark of intuition kindled his understanding that Los Angeles would need a robust university to be a key driver of growth and opportunity for the city.  Such a university would also need a blossoming metropolis to nourish its own development and discoveries.  It was a synergy born of pure vision and unbridled ambition, fueled by one man’s will to bring heaven to earth, and he would move heaven and earth to make it allpossible.

One simply cannot overestimate Judge Widney’s role in USC’s birth and early growth.  He personally drafted the university’s articles of incorporation, which our statue now holds, and you’ll soon see.  He asked and convinced three real estate partners – Childs, Downey, and Hellman – to donate the land.  He was the first chairman of USC’s board of trustees.  His brother, Joseph Widney, founded USC’s medical school in 1882 and later became the second president of the university.

Judge Widney donated $100,000 for the university’s first endowment fund—an extraordinary amount in that age—and he would later supervise the management of this fund.  He was a dreamer, a visionary, a builder.  Through force of will, he reimagined a region and the destinies of countless others who would follow here.

It is only fitting that the person who would shepherd USC through its humble beginnings was himself a man of modest origins.  Robert Maclay Widney was raised on a farm in central Ohio and later spent years hunting and trapping in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.   When he arrived as a young man in California, he chopped down trees for a living.  And when he finally reached Los Angeles in 1868, he had one trunk of possessions and one hundred dollars to his name.

But as much as he was a man of the external world, he was also a man of the internal mind who was fiercely devoted to education.

A short time after graduating from the University of the Pacific, he became a professor in mathematics there—without pay.  A true polymath, Widney also taught geology, chemistry, engineering and religion.  His passion for teaching and learning was simply inexhaustible, and somehow he also managed to find time to write.

In his book The Plan of Creation, his rigorous intellect strived to understand religion through the prism of science and see the design of the divine through natural laws.  He also studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1865.  In 1871, he was appointed a U.S. district judge here in LA.

But it was also in that year—nearly a decade before USC’s founding—that the university’s character would be born.  At the time, the American West was struggling with an early collision of cultures:  Anti-Chinese sentiment ran high across the West.  Jealousy, economic fears, and labor disputes fanned the flames of violence.

One night, anti-Chinese riots broke out in the streets of Los Angeles.  Deadly mobs took to the streets.  At a moment of high fever during those riots, Judge Widney plunged into a crowd besieging Chinese immigrants, at the risk of his own life.

Remember, Judge Widney was known as the “pistol-packing judge.”  He carried his pistol everywhere, and in the statue you’ll see its outline underneath his coat!

That evening, Judge Widney held his gun high and fired a single shot.  The crowd stepped back, and the future founder and first chairman of USC then escorted a number of the Chinese immigrants to safety.

In that moment, my fellow Trojans, the DNA of USC as a global institution first materialized.  On that evening, the ethos, the character, of USC began to take shape.

Character is destiny, and USC would have a global character.  A few years later, Japanese students would be among USC’s first graduates.  USC would later develop the largest body of international alumni in the world, mostly from the emerging nations of the Pacific.

More than a quarter-century before Congress gave women the right to vote, a quarter of USC’s first professors were women.  USC’s very first valedictorian was also a woman.  In the realm of diversity, all things that universities today strive to be, we have long been.

Judge Widney is also widely considered the architect of Los Angeles.  He worked to bring the Pacific Railroad to Los Angeles, which was critical in its development.  He organized the city’s first chamber of commerce and its first light and power company.  In addition, he was a real estate developer.  And if one city weren’t enough to build, he was also the co-founder of Long Beach.

Incredibly, he also found time to be an inventor.  He held a patent for a fruit grader and separator, which is only fitting for a man whose many wide-ranging contributions cry out for sorting, even to this day.

Not long before Robert Maclay Widney’s death in 1929, his daughter Frances and her husband took him on a long automobile tour of the city he helped build—the city that was just a cattle town when he first arrived.  They traveled from his downtown home through the growing areas of Pasadena and Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.  They showed him world-class railroads being built across the city, and the massive harbors that connected Los Angeles to the world.  They visited the magnificent City Hall, which was still under construction.  They gazed upon massive office buildings, and young movie studios emerging at the dawn of American cinema.

They saw a great city coming into maturity.  For much of that ride, Judge Widney said almost nothing.  Then, at the end of the long day, they brought him to the busy USC campus, abounding with life and radiating with untold possibilities.

Judge Widney turned to his daughter Frances, and said:  “All my life, I have been telling people about the incredible future of Los Angeles.  But in my wildest dreams, I never conceived anything as wonderful as this university!”

Those powerful words—Judge Widney’s vision for USC—now appear at the base of the statue we dedicate today, etched permanently on its plaque, a touchstone for generations of Trojans.

Today we pay tribute to this remarkable man who turned gusts of adversity into winds of opportunity.  We do so through great art, erecting a new symbol on our campus in celebration of his pioneering accomplishments.

Standing at eight-and-a-half feet tall, its weight over 1,000 pounds, this mixture of bronze and steel is no lifeless memorial to the founder of USC.  This statue is living testimony of Judge Widney’s vision in creating a dynamic global university.  USC was founded in 1880 in the building right behind me, when Robert Maclay Widney was just 42 years old.

Its illustrious sculptor—Christopher Slatoff—joins us today.  The son of an abstract painter, Mr. Slatoff was born and raised in California, and his highly evocative works appear throughout our state, as well as in Asia and Europe.

The Port of San Diego commissioned his majestic piece, “Sheltering Wings,” which has earned him international fame.  Mr. Slatoff’s peers awarded him the Gold Medal for Best Sculpture, and have praised his work for exuding “the visceral meaning of life itself.”

Monuments such as Mr. Slatoff’s are timeless storytellers.  They chronicle our past, while heralding our destiny.  Monuments are frozen history, our values suspended in substance.  Monuments are the physical embodiment of our dreams, the symbols of our humble beginnings, and the material repository of lessons learned.  Monuments allow us to touch humanity’s relentless journey, to cup the face of promise, and to embrace our achievements.

And so, too, will this statue of Judge Robert Maclay Widney reconnect us with our humble past while inspiring a triumphant future.  In doing so, it will radiate brilliance, the spirit and ethos of this exceptional man—and this enduring university—for many, many generations to come.

Thank you, and Fight On!

Dr. Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall opens with USC Fanfare

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confetti cannons pop streamers over the crowd at the opening of Dauterive Hall.

The opening of Dr. Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall, a historic day for the University of Southern California, September 3, 2014. (USC Photo / Gus Ruelas)

The newest addition to the USC University Park Campus, Dr. Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall, officially opened on September 3, 2014 with hundreds of well-wishers and dignitaries in attendance. The six-level, 110,000-square-foot building is the first interdisciplinary social science building, and represents the future of research collaboration, as well as a key milestone in the $6 billion Campaign for USC. The new building, made possible by a $30 million gift from educator, alumna, and USC Trustee Verna B. Dauterive MEd ’49, EdD ’66, will function as a catalyst for creativity and a gateway to discovery—bringing together researchers from many disciplines in a shared environment.

C. L. Max Nikias accompanies USC Trustee Verna Dauterive

USC President C. L. Max Nikias accompanies USC Trustee Verna Dauterive to the official opening of Dauterive Hall. (USC Photo / Gus Ruelas)

Dr. Dauterive’s gift – a pledge announced in 2008 to honor her late husband, Peter W. Dauterive ’49, founding president and CEO of Founders Savings and Loan Association, as well as the university – was groundbreaking not only for its extraordinary generosity, but also for being the largest ever made by an African American to a U.S. institution of higher education. The Dauterives, who met in Doheny Memorial Library while both were students, maintained strong, lifelong ties to their alma mater, providing previous support to the USC Marshall School of Business, USC Libraries, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, USC Price School of Public Policy, USC Rossier School of Education and USC School of Dramatic Arts.

Read more at USC News.

New Student Convocation

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August 21, 2014
by C. L. Max Nikias

I would like to thank all of you—our freshmen, our transfer students, and our parents—for coming to USC on this very special occasion.

This ceremony is a rite of passage, an enduring tradition that connects the students of today with scholars across time and across continents.  Today, we induct you into the academy, and we embrace you as scholars.

We have gathered here in this place at a very pivotal moment in this university’s history. USC is on the move, riding a wave of unstoppable academic momentum that has made it the talk of academic circles across the nation and across continents.

Transformative faculty from around the world and top students from every corner of the globe want to make USC their home.  The university is also fertile ground for cultivating the next generation of superstars in teaching and research and patient care.

USC is a place today where 52,000 applicants competed for 2,700 spots in the freshman class.  We searched far and wide to find you.  In the last year, our admissions staff visited 2,200 high schools in all 50 states and in 16 different nations—more than any other university.

If you feel very special that you are here today, it’s because you are, and you deserve it!

Serious supporters of USC’s excellence make serious investments in USC because of their unwavering belief in our future.  In just four years, we have surpassed $3.6 billion dollars in philanthropic donations, a record achievement not just for USC, but also for American higher education.  It is only through our supporters that we are able to provide you not merely with a superior education, but a life-changing experience that will instruct and guide you throughout your lives, long after you leave our campuses.

One of the transformative gifts USC received was the historic support of $110 million from Julie and John Mork for undergraduate student scholarships.  Every year, we select a small group of exceptional students to be Mork Family Scholars.  Among the students marching in this morning’s procession was the fourth group of Mork Family Scholars, who bring the overall total to 63.  I am proud to announce the first group of Mork scholars will be graduating in the spring.

We are honored to have Julie and John Mork with us this morning.  John is also the chairman of our Board of Trustees.  We salute their tremendous generosity and the lasting legacy they have created, which will enhance USC’s academic life for generations to come.

Today, as we induct you into this academy, I want to talk to you about something that may seem like an unusual topic, especially at an elite university like USC.  That topic is literacy.

When I speak of literacy, I’m not just referring to the ability to read and write.  Today you need to be literate in more than the traditional meaning of the word.  You need to be fluent in many different areas.  I hope during your time at USC you will become literate in:

  • Imagination;
  • In the world;
  • In the arts and the great literary works;
  • In digital media;
  • And, finally, in ethics

Let me begin with imagination.  What is imagination?  It has been called “what the eyes cannot see, what the ears cannot hear, and what the heart cannot feel.”  It has been called the beginning of all creation, a preview of life’s coming attractions, and our one weapon in the war against reality.  It is the eye of the soul, the oxygen of the mind.

Imagination is less of a skill to be learned than a process to be harnessed.  In youth, children are encouraged to use their imagination.  Yet in adulthood, many are encouraged to lose their imagination—but for what gain?

All of the world’s greatest breakthroughs—from timeless works of art to timely innovations—first appeared as a flash of intuition, a flicker of insight, a spark of inspiration.  We live in an age of imagination where novelty continually remakes the world.  Each of you is a spool of ideas whose threads have the potential to reweave the global tapestry.  Pay attention to those ideas.  Follow where they lead.  Listen to what they have to teach you.

To be truly imaginative, you will have to open yourselves up to new ideas and new experiences.  Find creative people within the walls of academic buildings and beyond.  Spend time with them.  Get their advice.  Let them challenge you.

USC offers a highly diverse environment.  We have students from all 50 states and 120 different nations on this campus, and we are home to more than 90 student religious groups.  These students—and I mean you—come to USC for different reasons, but you share the same ambitions.  You have a thirst for acquiring and creating new knowledge, and you want to make a difference in the world.

To further enrich your imagination, I also urge you to broadly explore classes outside of your major.  At some point, you may take such a class that captures your imagination as no other has before.

I want you to know that it’s okay to change your major—don’t feel guilty.  Both of my daughters recently graduated from USC, and they both changed their majors more than once.  So, students—and especially parents—don’t worry if this happens.  It is all a part of opening up one’s imagination!

In addition to imagination, you should also become literate in the external world around you.  Today the economy is global, and competition is global.  Throughout your lives and careers, you will have to work and interact with individuals from other backgrounds and other nationalities.

USC provides the proper setting and training to understand other people and cultures and to form friendships with those from other parts of the United States and around the globe.  One of the best ways to become familiar with the world is to travel.  When you see the world from an unfamiliar angle, you gain a fresh perspective and a new vantage point.

Some of you may think travel is too expensive.  But you can find deals even on a college student’s budget.  Take advantage of the USC opportunity to study abroad.  And when you do, venture beyond the well-worn paths.

Others may have gone before you and mapped the territory.  But always remember:  where your trail ends, new adventures begin.  As you travel, you will learn that the world around you has the power to shape the world within you.

The next area in which you should become literate is the arts.  Although my background is in engineering, I have always had a passion for the arts, especially theater.  I believe that science and technology are tools toward an end, but great art is our end as fully developed human beings.

When I was a student, I immersed myself in the Greco-Roman classics—the plays, the chronicles, the myths.  These classics helped shape my views and helped define me as a person.  I believe in the power of art to transform us.  I believe that the arts should not be located on the outskirts of our lives, but at the heart of our existence.  The arts should not be a part of life.  They should be a way of life.

At USC, more than one out of six undergraduates are majoring or minoring in the arts.  Our university currently boasts five schools devoted solely to the arts.  And these schools will soon be joined by a sixth: the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

We also offer you Visions and Voices, our expansive arts and humanities initiative, whose programs are free for all of our students.  Regardless of your major at USC, I encourage you to graduate with an appreciation for, and a solid foundation in, the arts and humanities.

The fourth area in which you should be fluent is great literature.  You are what you read!  Literature is a window into the human heart, the human condition, and the human spirit.  It gives us insight into our hopes and dreams, passions and desires, triumphs and failures.

The literary voices of the past still call out to us in the present.  By opening up a good book, you are engaging in a conversation with a great mind whose wisdom resonates across the ages.

Here at USC, we have a special love of literature.  As you may know, every year we host the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on our campus.  This is the largest literary event in the United States.  Over two days last spring, we hosted over 400 authors and welcomed more than 150,000 people.  I invite you to join us next April for another wonderful weekend with your favorite authors and books.

Literature is so important to me that each spring I will send you a summer reading list.  I truly believe that the books you read will determine the person you become.

The next area in which you should be literate is digital media.  I don’t need to tell you this, of course.  Yours is the generation of texting, and blogging, and social networking.  Your world has always been connected and online.

At USC we are here to help you remain in the vanguard of new tools and new ways of communicating.  We are here to encourage you to read or write or tell a story not just on a traditional page, but in new digital forms.

At the same time, however, remember that data is not wisdom, that sometimes more information can make us less informed.  Yes, we welcome the creators of information, but we also need the interpreters.  I hope you will develop into individuals who can search through the constant streams of information and find the nuggets of wisdom.

Many of you know how to use digital media better than your parents or even your professors do.  You’re helping to blur the line between the teacher and the student.  We are all a community of learners in digital media now.  And we must all, together, keep pace with a world that is constantly speeding into the future, and we must innovate even as the tools of creation are constantly changing.

To this end, this semester marks the launch of the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation.  This groundbreaking center will be an intersection of disruption where artists, technologists, and entrepreneurs forge the future—a living laboratory that yields new creations of expression, and new expressions of creation.

Now let me talk to you, finally, about the one thing that makes all of the previous types of literacy worthwhile—and that is ethics.

Nearly 2,200 years ago, the great Roman politician and philosopher Cicero sent his only son away to college.  All of the wealthy and powerful families in Rome wanted to send their sons to Plato’s famous Academy in Athens.

There was only one problem.  Cicero’s son, Marcus, like many students of his age, was more interested in the social aspects of higher education.  Let’s just say that he was neglecting the great books in favor of having a good time in Athens.

So, Cicero wrote an entire book of letters to Marcus to remind him of his responsibilities to himself, his family, and his society.  In short, he wanted to remind his son of the principles that lead to an honorable life.  Cicero titled his book On the Obligations of a Good Citizen, or, in Latin, De Officiis.  This was in fact Cicero’s last book.  Even as he wrote it, he was aware that his opposition to Mark Antony might tragically end his life.

Let me share with you some brief thoughts that Cicero hoped would be meaningful to his son, and that I hope might inform your days at USC.

“What,” Cicero asks, “distinguishes a human being from a beast?”

Animals are moved only by their senses, and cannot perceive the past or the future.  Humans, on the other hand, possess a unique ability to reason and to comprehend the chain of consequences, perceive the causes of things, and connect the present and the future.

A human, Cicero wrote, “can therefore easily survey the course of his whole life, and make the necessary preparations for its conduct.”

So, to paraphrase Cicero:  The choices you make today will shape the person you become tomorrow.  The actions you take in the present will have consequences in the future.  Use your reason to make honorable decisions—decisions that will ultimately benefit you.

Cicero also tells his son, “We are not born for ourselves alone.  We do not live for ourselves alone.  Our country, our family, our friends, have a share in us.”

Today, as you embark on your Trojan journey, remember that you do not live for yourself alone.  Simply by living in our society, you have obligations to others—those closest to you and the wider human community.  By enrolling at the University of Southern California, you are now part of an extraordinary community known as the Trojan Family.

All of you come here from different parts of the country and the world.  You have different majors and career goals.  You have different beliefs and backgrounds.  But what unites you, what unites us, is our membership in one family—the Trojan Family—that includes all parents and students.

This Trojan Family currently has 300,000 members worldwide!  Like any family, we share many traditions, which we pass down from generation to generation.  You can witness some of those traditions in the Coliseum while cheering our football team!

Allow me to close with one of these traditions.  It’s a simple gesture that all Trojans know.  No matter where you are in the world, whether you are walking along the street in Los Angeles or in the heart of New York City, or Mumbai, or London, or Shanghai, or you are on the island of Santorini or you are bike riding in Idaho, if you recognize another Trojan, you flash the victory sign and say, “Fight On!”

Welcome to the Trojan Family, and thank you for choosing to attend USC.

Message to Ambassadors

Topics: Uncategorized

August 29, 2014

Niki and I are eager to begin a new academic year at the university—our fifth as president and first lady of USC—and hope you had a wonderful summer.  We are certainly pleased to be back, and to feel the energy of our new and returning students and faculty.  We draw such pride from our Trojan Family, and from our collective strength, creativity, and kindness.

I am always humbled by the generous support of USC—at all levels, and this summer was no exception.  The USC community celebrated the magnificent news that three trustees stepped forward with exceptionally generous gifts to the university.  Thomas Barrack Jr. and his family gave $15 million to our Marshall School of Business, significantly advancing the school’s global mission and supporting the renovation of a key building, which will be renamed Barrack Hall.  Just a few weeks later, the university received a $15 million gift from Andrew and Erna Viterbi—$10 million of which is directed to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and $5 million of which is dedicated to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.  And most recently, USC announced a transformative $30 million gift from Kathleen McCarthy to name the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Honors Hall at the USC Village.  We will formally celebrate Mrs. McCarthy’s gift at the groundbreaking for the USC Village, and I will provide additional details regarding her gift in a forthcoming letter.

USC School of Cinematic Arts tops rankings
I was also pleased to learn that The Hollywood Reporter ranked our School of Cinematic Arts first in the nation, and in the accompanying article, asked its readers to think of “USC SCA as the uncatchable Moby Dick of film schools.”  One educator described our school, saying, “It is the patriarch: passionate, perennial, always turning out the best films.”  Over the summer, the school opened the Michelle and Kevin Douglas IMAX Theatre and Immersive Lab, which includes a screening room and research lab that live-streams events from all over the world.

USC innovation draws attention
NBC News covered the inaugural White House Maker Faire, which featured the unveiling of a 3-D printed bust of President Obama, along with a mold of his face.  Smithsonian-based specialists created these items using USC technology—a Light Stage face scanner, which captured the president’s face in high resolution.  This is another example of a USC innovation advancing an impressive, groundbreaking project.

In memoriam: distinguished Trojans
On a more somber note, this past summer we laid to rest a number of eminent Trojans, including University and Distinguished Professor Warren Bennis.  Professor Bennis, who stood among the world’s leading experts on leadership, wrote numerous highly regarded books, including the classic On Becoming a Leader, and served as an advisor to five United States presidents.  He joined our faculty in 1979, and received USC’s highest honor, the Presidential Medallion, in 2001.

In facing a difficult loss, the Trojan Family always comes together even stronger, as we saw with the passing of other beloved members of our community.  In the news, you most likely learned of the tragic death in Afghanistan of Major General Harold J. Greene, a two-star United States Army general and the highest-ranking American military official killed in action since the Vietnam War.  Major General Greene was a three-time USC alumnus, having earned a Ph.D. in materials science and two master’s degrees from our Viterbi School of Engineering.

We also mourned the loss of Xinran Ji, a graduate student at our Viterbi School of Engineering, whose life was tragically cut short.  Our hearts went out to the family and friends of this young man, who had touched so many with his warmth, intellect, and creativity.  Friends recalled Xinran as someone who was “always smiling, modest, positive, and hard working.”  We have extended our deepest condolences to Xinran’s family and friends, and have pledged our continued support.

This past summer we also said good-bye to an American hero and proud Trojan, Louis Zamperini. Mr. Zamperini was an alumnus of USC Dornsife and an athlete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, who later moved myriad people around the world with his singular story of survival: during World War II, when his plane crashed on a routine mission, he survived 47 days aboard a life raft in the Pacific Ocean and more than two years of captivity as a prisoner of war.

Dr. Michael Preston, a venerable member of USC’s faculty for nearly three decades, also passed away this summer.  Professor Preston was a renowned expert on racial and ethnic politics, and inspired generations of scholars of urban politics.  He mentored countless faculty and students, and served as my special adviser during my tenure as provost.  These five distinguished Trojans will certainly be missed.

In closing, Niki and I are so grateful for your continued support as a USC Ambassador.  For my part, I feel truly fortunate to have Niki by my side: she is such a passionate ambassador for our entire community.  Our local paper, the San Marino Outlook, recently ran a piece that highlighted her dedication to USC, as well as the glorious history of the President’s House, which we are so fortunate to occupy.  I hope you enjoy the story!

Yours truly,

C. L. Max Nikias

USC Trustee Ming Hsieh Honored by Asia Society

Topics: News, Uncategorized

Eva Hsieh, Niki C. Nikias, C. L. Max Nikias, Eric Garcetti, Thomas E. McLain, Ming Hsieh

Eva Hsieh, Niki C. Nikias, C. L. Max Nikias, Eric Garcetti, Thomas E. McLain, Ming Hsieh

At a gala dinner on May 19, 2014 hosted by the Asia Society of Southern California, USC Trustee Ming Hsieh was honored as the 2014 Philanthropist of the Year, presented with the award by USC President C. L. Max Nikias.

Ming Hsieh earned a B.S. (1983) and M.S. (1984) in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California. Soon after earning his degrees, he founded two highly successful companies, AMAX Information Technologies (1985) and Cogent, Inc. (1990), of which he is president, chief executive officer, and chairman.

In 2006, Ming Hsieh generously made a $35 million gift to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and subsequently the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering was named in his honor. Hsieh serves as a USC Trustee and a member of the Board of Councilors of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Presidential priorities

  • Transforming USC into a major hub of the emerging Age of the Pacific—by creating trans-Pacific alliances, by fully utilizing Los Angeles as a laboratory for trans-Pacific research, education and culture, and by building the foremost network of Pacific leaders.

  • Ensuring that the USC academic community serves as a key engine of intellectual, economic and cultural progress for the nation, and allowing its vast array of disciplines to be combined creatively in order to catalyze new knowledge and innovation.

  • Ensuring that USC promotes imagination and invention by creating a living and learning environment in which the university’s undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty are fluent in a wide variety of intellectual areas, ranging from classical literary works to the latest digital technologies.

  • Serving the neighborhoods around our two campuses through job creation and quality k-12 education. Further strengthening the legendary traditions of the Trojan Family.

  • Leading USC during the most ambitious fundraising campaign ever announced by an American university. This historic endeavor will raise $6 billion to support USC's faculty and students, as well as its academic priorities, capital projects, and essential infrastructure.