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USC Price launches $150 million fundraising initiative

by Matthew Kredell
The USC Price Guardian Awards & Campaign Celebration was held in Beverly Hills. (Photo/Tom Queally)
Photo: The USC Price Guardian Awards & Campaign Celebration was held in Beverly Hills. (Photo/Tom Queally)

By all measures, the USC Price School of Public Policy experienced a historic year. And on the evening of Nov. 13, the school commemorated its accomplishments, honored its supporters and looked toward the future by announcing the launch of its $150 million fundraising initiative.

More than 400 guests, including senior university administrators, faculty and students, attended a festive gala in Beverly Hills for the USC Price Guardian Awards & Campaign Celebration.

Through the initiative, which is part of The Campaign for the University of Southern California, the school aims to become a global center for public policy, planning and development in the 21st century.

“With this initiative, the USC Price School will secure its place as a leader in education and scholarship, and as an agent for positive change in the world,” said Dean Jack H. Knott.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias, during his remarks, noted how “the school’s faculty, students and alums are addressing some of the most pressing problems of our day.

“Some are helping unlock the gridlock on our streets and freeways, others are helping us answer the many questions that have emerged from the field of health care, yet others are engaged in the debate on immigration and immigration reform, and they helped us interpret the issues that were debated during the most recent political elections,” he added.

In the past year, USC Price reached many significant milestones. The school received a $50 million naming gift and endowment from the Price Family Charitable Fund. Generous gifts from donors endowed three major institutes — from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, from Guardian Award winner Leonard D. Schaeffer for the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, and from the Price Family Charitable Fund for the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation.

Most recently, real estate entrepreneur David Dollinger MRED ’87 donated $10 million to name the Dollinger Master of Real Estate Development Program.

The school also excelled academically this year, moving up to No. 6 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings for best graduate schools in public affairs. Enrollment jumped by more than 16 percent, with admitted students tallying higher GRE and SAT test scores and grade-point averages, surpassing the school’s already high standards. External research funding exceeded $35 million, more than at any time in the school’s 83-year history.

“Our school is accomplishing great things, but we endeavor to be even greater,” Knott said. “We strive for excellence in all that we do. We don’t see excellence as a single achievement; rather, we see it as continuously reaching for new heights and exceeding our own expectations.”

In addition to kicking off the fundraising initiative, USC Price also honored three individuals – Schaeffer, Leo Chu and Aaron Sorkin – whose work reflects the school’s efforts to advocate for the common good and advance public discourse.

Chu, president of California Casino Management, was the recipient of the Global Ambassador Award; Schaeffer, founding chairman and CEO of WellPoint and the Judge Robert Maclay Widney Chair and Professor at USC, was the first winner of the Sol Price Award; and Sorkin, Academy-Award winning screenwriter and producer, received the Vision and Leadership Award.

Chu was recognized for his efforts in helping USC create and cultivate international relationships. Born in Shanghai and raised in Hong Kong, Chu used his connections as founder of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities to bridge the gap between USC and its counterparts in Asia.

“Leo is a leader who truly epitomizes what it means to be a global ambassador to USC,” said Elizabeth Garrett, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Through his efforts to forge international partnerships furthering our international reach, Leo exemplifies the USC Price School’s mission and expertise in a global setting.”

Schaeffer’s entrepreneurial accomplishments in the world of business and philanthropic impact on communities and social policy have mirrored those of Sol Price ’38, making him the perfect recipient for the inaugural Sol Price Award.

“Leonard Schaeffer embodies the spirit of this award, as demonstrated by his exceptional business achievements with WellPoint and Blue Cross of California, and his deep commitment to philanthropic support for health care through the creation of the California Endowment and his recent endowment of the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics,” said Robert Price, chairman of the board for PriceSmart Inc., and son of Price.

Sorkin was honored for bringing important public policy issues to the forefront of mainstream entertainment through his work in television and film. Perhaps best known for creating and writing The West Wing, Sorkin also wrote the screenplays for A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson’s War and The Social Network. He was introduced by John Gallagher Jr., an actor from his current HBO series The Newsroom.

The USC Trojan Marching Band capped off the night and symbolized the beginning of USC Price’s fundraising initiative with renditions of university classics.

“I have every confidence that our school can and will become the preeminent school of our kind by 2020,” Knott said. “Through this initiative, we seek to elevate our school — making it preeminent, distinctive, state-of-the-art and impactful.

“Preeminent by becoming the best, investing in transformative faculty and extraordinary students,” Knott explained, “distinctive through our interdisciplinary and cross-sector approach to solving today’s complex issues; state-of-the-art by providing the best technology and facilities for research and education; and impactful by making a positive difference in public policy and society.”

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