Gary K. Michelson establishes $50 million gift for Convergent Bioscience

I am pleased to share the exceptional news that earlier this month, USC received an extraordinarily generous $50 million gift from Dr. Gary K. Michelson, a renowned inventor and retired orthopedic spinal surgeon whose groundbreaking work has generated more than 955 issued or pending patents worldwide. Dr. Michelson’s gift will establish the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.

The USC Michelson Center signals a new era of collaboration between the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, one that aims to transform how research is conducted at the intersection of engineering and the life and biomedical sciences. It will help create a major biomedical research corridor in Southern California.

Dr. Michelson is a visionary philanthropist who has funded medical research, provided textbooks to students, and worked to convert municipal animal shelters into no-kill adoption facilities. A resident of Los Angeles, he graduated from Temple University and Hahnemann Medical College, and spent more than 25 years as a spinal surgeon. Over the course of his stellar career, he has improved spinal implant operating procedures and the instruments to perform those procedures, which have helped millions of patients suffering from spine ailments.

Now, by providing his support to create the USC Michelson Center, he will expedite our quest to turn the biological sciences into a quantitative and predictive science, fast-tracking the detection and cure of diseases. In recent years, there have been tremendous advances in our understanding of living systems spurred by the genome revolution, coupled with improvements in computing technology. Scientists at the USC Michelson Center will collaborate to translate those advances to the real world by accelerating the invention of life-saving biomedical devices.

At USC, the center will occupy a new 190,000 square foot building at the southwest quadrant of the University Park Campus, home to most of our science and engineering buildings, and will house 20 to 30 principal investigators with laboratories employing hundreds of researchers and students. The facility will include state-of-the-art flexible labs, a Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis, a nanofabrication facility, and a suite of microscopy imaging technology that can take precise measurements inside of cells.

Dr. Michelson’s gift represents a milestone in USC’s current fundraising initiative, which seeks to raise $6 billion or more in private support from individual donors, foundations, and corporations. At the time of its launch, the campaign had the largest fundraising goal ever announced in higher education. In just three years, it had already raised $3 billion. Dr. Michelson’s $50 million gift contributes significantly to our larger goal, advancing the university well past the halfway point.

Student scholarships

The campaign also received a significant boost in December, when two anonymous donors stepped up with a profoundly generous $20 million gift to endow student support at our Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, School of Social Work, and Marshall School of Business. This is one of the largest individual gifts for student support in USC’s history. As the accompanying story explains, endowed scholarships are critical for attracting the highest quality students to our university, and this magnificent gift will bring the dream of a USC education to deserving students for many generations to come. These students’ successes will forever stand in testament to the donors’ philanthropic foresight.

Los Angeles Times profiles two USC trustees

I am also pleased to share that earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published separate profiles of two of USC’s distinguished trustees: Wanda M. Austin, president and chief executive of The Aerospace Corporation, and Yang Ho Cho, chairman of the Hanjin Group, both of whom are venerable graduates of USC. The articles capture the inspired vision, intellect, and dedication they bring to their work, and are wonderful tributes to the Trojan spirit. I hope you enjoy them.

Water polo wins sixth straight national title

In December, USC men’s water polo team won an unprecedented sixth straight national title, its ninth NCAA title in the program’s history and the 121st all-time for the university. The Trojans became the first collegiate water polo team ever to win six consecutive crowns—an extraordinary accomplishment and a testament to the remarkable leadership of head coach Jovan Vavic. Our joy, however, was tempered a few weeks later with the untimely passing of one of the team’s players, freshman Jon Walters. This past season, Jon contributed to USC’s title run with 17 goals on the season, including two goals in a 10-3 win over St. Francis Brooklyn in the NCAA semifinal game. Niki and I have sent our heartfelt condolences to the Walters family, and I know they remain very much in the thoughts of the entire USC community.

Yours truly,

C. L. Max Nikias