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President Sample Gets Centennial Medal

by Diane Ainsworth

President Steven B. Sample accepts the Centennial Medallion from Yannis Yortsos, dean of the USC School of Engineering.

Photo/Steve Cohn

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering presented USC President Steven B. Sample with a special Centennial Medallion in honor of the school’s 100th anniversary at the 28th annual Engineering Awards Luncheon, held April 5 in USC’s Town & Gown conference center.

Nobel Laureate and Caltech President David Baltimore delivered the keynote address before a crowd of more than 300 people, including industry executives, a large contingent from USC’s Board of Trustees and the Viterbi School’s Board of Councilors.

Senior administrators and USC Viterbi School alumni, students and faculty also attended.

With Dean Yannis Yortsos presiding over the ceremony, Chevron Corp.’s CEO David O’Reilly received the Daniel J. Epstein Engineering Management Award; Ming Hsieh, head of Cogent Inc., received the Mark A. Stevens Distinguished Alumni Award; and Duke University electrical engineer Nan Marie Jokerst received the Distinguished Alumni Award in Academia.

“Now I want to make sure I understand this correctly. This medallion is given once every 100 years?” asked Sample as he walked up to the podium to accept the award. “I hope I win it twice in a row!”

The room erupted in laughter.

“For the past 15 years, it’s been a great privilege to me to serve as this university’s president and to work alongside the talented and dedicated men and women of this school,” Sample said. “You are not only outstanding engineers and faculty members and business leaders, but you’re also exceptional mentors, visionaries and role models, and you make me very proud to be a tenured professor on this school’s faculty.

“Over the last 100 years, this school has trained many of the top engineers in Southern California and around the world,” he continued. “The recent success of the Viterbi School has been built on the solid foundation established by hundreds of men and women who came before us. I take great satisfaction in knowing that the engineering students and faculty at USC today will become the innovators and pioneers of tomorrow.”

In his opening remarks, Yortsos said the school had been transformed in the past decade into a national leader by winning tough competitions for national research centers in multimedia and biomedical engineering.

“And when it came time for the federal government to choose the best university to house the nation’s first homeland security center of excellence, they chose us,” he said. “It has been my privilege for the past year � our 100th year � to steer the magnificent ship of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.”

Upon receiving his award, Hsieh (BSEE ’83, MSEE ’84) expressed his heartfelt gratitude to USC and the school for the education that launched his career. The engineering alumnus is chairman, president and CEO of Cogent Inc., a provider of automated fingerprint identification systems. He added that his parents never let him forget that he had not completed his Ph.D there.

The next awardee, Jokerst (MSEE ’84, PhD ’89) said that her father had always regretted that she hadn’t earned an MBA and gone into business.

“We never seem to do what our parents want us to do,” said the J.A. Jones Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University.

O’Reilly, who received the Daniel J. Epstein Engineering Management Award, was unable to attend the event, so Peter J. Robertson, vice chairman of the board, accepted on his behalf.

O’Reilly is a native of Dublin, Ireland, and chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp. He is also a director of the Institute for International Economics and the Eisenhower Fellowships board of trustees, and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council, the National Petroleum Council and the Trilateral Commission.

Before his keynote address, Baltimore congratulated Sample on his award and “what he has done [as USC president] for the reputation of Los Angeles.

“He and his team have made all metaphors in L.A. football metaphors,” Baltimore said. “So Steve is one of the USC quarterbacks, calling the plays at USC and then executing them to perfection. Steve, all of us at Caltech honor you.”

Baltimore, a molecular biologist, is a Nobel Prize winner for his pioneering work to identify an enzyme process (enzyme reverse transcriptase) that allows cancer-causing RNA viruses to infect healthy cells. While at MIT, he was also an early advocate of federal AIDS research.

He praised the USC Viterbi School for “seeing into the future” and asking a molecular biologist to address an engineering school. He went on to discuss the latest interdisciplinary research in the field of bioengineering. The intersection of biology and engineering in this field of research is rapidly becoming a new frontier in molecular medicine.

“One of the nice things about being here is seeing how many Caltech graduates there are … ‘techers,’ as they say,” he noted. “It’s a great pleasure to join in the celebration of 100 years of engineering at USC and the 28th annual engineering awards.”

President Sample Gets Centennial Medal

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