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C. L. Max Nikias Inauguration

Steven B. Sample

Steven Sample.jpgSteven B. Sample took office as USC's tenth president on March 31, 1991, after nearly a decade at the helm of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo. He was USC's first holder of the Robert C. Packard President's Chair.

An electrical engineer, musician, outdoorsman, author and inventor, Sample had completed B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois by age 24 and was awarded tenure as an associate professor of engineering at Purdue University by 29. After leaving Purdue, he served as deputy director for academic affairs at the Illinois Board of Higher Education before accepting an appointment as executive vice president of academic affairs and dean of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in 1974. He joined SUNY-Buffalo (UB) in 1982.

Sample's inauguration was planned to emphasize not only the values of the university, but also the fact that these values are shared. The ceremony - held in Alumni Memorial Park on Friday morning, September 20, 1991 - included a ceremonial "March of Commitment" by 10,000 people representing all dimensions of the Trojan Family, including faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, staff, parents, alumni, donors, elected and non-elected government officials, neighborhood children and other friends of the university.

At the moment of installation, Forrest Shumway, chairman of the USC Board of Trustees, placed the presidential medallion over Sample's shoulders, and Martin Levine, faculty senate president, presented Sample with the university mace. Frank Rhodes, president of Cornell University, made an introductory address.

In his inaugural address, Sample articulated a principle that would become a leitmotif of his administration: "I do not believe it would be appropriate for USC to rest on its laurels…." He also outlined carefully thought-out priorities for the period ahead: strengthening undergraduate programs; developing the USC Health Sciences campus; aggressively recruiting top doctoral and postdoctoral students; expanding USC's tradition of public service, with a particular emphasis on the neighborhoods surrounding the two main campuses; and consolidating and refocusing programs and services in order to raise quality and conserve resources.

In place of an all-university reception, a series of receptions immediate following the ceremony enabled the new president to personally meet as many people as possible. Additionally, deans and directors held open houses to showcase their schools/units for inauguration attendees.

Widely credited with bringing about an institutional rise at USC that is unparalleled in American higher education, Sample was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 in recognition of his accomplishments as a university president. Under his leadership, USC became a highly selective undergraduate institution, drove faculty excellence to new levels; completed the largest fund-raising campaign in the history of higher education; created a global network of scholars and programs, especially around the Pacific Rim; built successful neighborhood partnerships to spur economic and educational development; and embraced its place as the largest private employer and a key social force in the City of Los Angeles.

Sample retired from the presidency in August 2010, taking a yearlong sabbatical before resuming teaching and research as a tenured member of the faculty of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.


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