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C. L. Max Nikias Inauguration

Marion McKinley Bovard

Marion Bovard.jpgMarion McKinley Bovard, a Methodist minister, was the first president of the University of Southern California.

Rev. Bovard, who held B.A. and M.A. degrees from De Pauw University in Indiana, headed west in 1873 to do Methodist missionary work in Arizona. Setting out by stagecoach via a roundabout route through San Francisco, Bovard was prevented from crossing the Colorado River by an Apache Indian attack and was forced to stop in San Bernardino, Calif. There, Bovard met the Rev. John Tansey, presiding elder of the Los Angeles District of the Methodist Episcopal Conference, who suggested that the youthful minister be considered for the presidency of the fledgling USC. Bovard was put in charge of the Fort Street (now Broadway) Methodist Church until his appointment as USC president in 1880.

On Oct. 5, 1880, a gathering of Los Angeles citizens convened in an upper room of the newly constructed Widney Hall, the university’s first building (now USC's Widney Alumni House), to witness Bovard's installation as USC's first president. The president of the university's board of directors, Judge Robert Maclay Widney, for whom the building was named, delivered the installation address and handed the keys of the institution over to Bovard.

Bovard's inaugural speech was titled "Education as a Factor in Civilization." On the following morning, October 6, USC opened its doors.

In addition to serving as president, Bovard held the University Chair in Moral, Intellectual and Natural Sciences.

For seven years, under the first Bovard administration, USC prospered; by the time of its first commencement, in 1884, the school boasted 248 full-time students and 13 faculty members. A second academic building, a three-story structure later called "Old College," was dedicated. During the Bovard administration, USC Libraries and the schools of fine arts, music and medicine were founded, along with the College of Liberal Arts, which later became known as the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Four years of fiscal uncertainty followed, and Bovard died in 1891.


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