University of Southern California USC Logo

C. L. Max Nikias Inauguration

Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid

Rufus von KleinSmid.jpgRufus Bernhard von KleinSmid was serving as president of the University of Arizona when, in 1921, he was elected as the fifth president of USC.

Von KleinSmid was a graduate of Oberlin College Academy in Ohio and earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Northwestern University. He began his educational career in 1897 as a public school principal in Illinois. By 1905, he was principal of De Pauw Academy and a member of the De Pauw University faculty. During von KleinSmid's presidency at the University of Arizona, his colorful presence and skilled oratory made him a popular proponent of the state and of higher education.

Von KleinSmid became president of USC on Dec. 12, 1921, but his inauguration did not take place until the following April. On April 28, 1922, an academic procession walked from the steps of Old College to a packed Bovard Auditorium to see George Finley Bovard install the new president. In addition to students and members of the community, 400 delegates to the Pan American Conference on Education attended from 14 Latin American nations, Great Britain and Italy. Von KleinSmid delivered an address on "A World View of Education" and conferred honorary degrees on eight dignitaries.

During the von KleinSmid administration, USC became a large, nondenominational institution. The student body increased to 12,000 and the faculty to 1,000. The campus — which had boasted only three permanent buildings — expanded to 22 major structures. During the von KleinSmid administration, the schools of cinema-television, public administration, theatre, international relations and journalism were established.

Von KleinSmid stepped down as president in 1947 and was appointed USC chancellor that same year.


For questions about inaugural events
USC Office of University Events
(213) 740-6786

For media inquiries
USC Media Relations
(213) 740-2215

For questions about alumni events
USC Alumni Association
(213) 740-2300