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Caps off to newly minted Trojan grads

Perkins_Robertby Robert Perkins
The commencement ceremony drew a crowd of more than 60,000 to the University Park Campus. (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)
The commencement ceremony drew a crowd of more than 60,000 to the University Park Campus. (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

At USC’s 130th commencement ceremony on May 17, legendary music industry executive Jimmy Iovine told USC graduates that their education would give them an edge in a competitive world.

“Today, each one of you has an excellent reason to believe in yourselves,” said Iovine, chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M Records. “You have earned a degree from USC. You are graduating from one of the greatest universities in the world.

“Remember when you grew up, hearing about people that are privileged?” he continued. “Congratulations, you are now privileged. Because you know what privilege means? It means you have an edge. And whatever your background, wherever you come from, you now have the undeniable edge of a first-class education.” (Read the full text of Iovine’s commencement address)

Iovine reminded students that their diploma was not an end to their education, but rather a “learner’s permit” to continue a life of learning.

He surprised the audience by welcoming on to the stage longtime collaborator and fellow music industry icon Dr. Dre (Andre Young). On May 15, Iovine and Dre demonstrated their commitment to education by announcing a $70 million gift to USC to establish the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.

The new academy will seek out undergraduate students whose talents and interests span fields ranging from business to engineering to design and the arts, and will prepare them to become the next generation of innovators.

Congratulating the new graduates, Dre thanked “all of the amazing people at USC that made it possible for us to build an academy at this incredible university.”

He added: “I’m excited and I am proud to now be a member of the Trojan Family.”

Relating anecdotes from his storied career, Iovine imparted two major lessons from his own life to the new Trojans. The first came from his early days in the music industry, when he had threatened to quit working on a Bruce Springsteen album during a particularly frustrating period.

“Bruce’s manager looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Hang on, Jimmy. I’m going to tell you something that will go against every instinct you have about how to react in a situation like this: This is not about you,’ ” Iovine recalled. “At that moment, I began to learn how to push aside my own personal issues and my desperate need to be right so I could focus on what was truly important: the greater good.”

The second lesson came from his struggle to adapt to the changing world that music-streaming service Napster inaugurated. The experience shook him, Iovine said, but he realized that fear didn’t have to be a weakness — it could be a strength.

“I want you to all get comfortable with your fears because fear is a fact of life that you can use to your advantage. Because when you learn to harness the power of your fears, it can take you places beyond your wildest dreams. Because here’s the good news: Fear has a lot of firepower,” he said.

The commencement ceremony drew a crowd of more than 60,000 to the University Park Campus. The Trojan Family minted 13,284 new graduates, more than half of whom were students earning master’s or doctorate degrees. They represented all 50 states and more than 100 countries around the world.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias told the graduating students that it was a pleasure and a privilege to unleash their talents and energies upon the world.

“Yes, you are graduating into times of uncertainty. But what is uncertainty? It is the beginning of adventure,” Nikias said. “Always remember: To the bold, uncertainty is a fountain of infinite creative possibilities. As the Roman poet Virgil observed more than 2,000 years ago, to be a Trojan is to be an adventurer.”

Nikias also recognized National Medal of Science winner Solomon Golomb, University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics who has taught at USC for more than 50 years, and graduating USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

Months of planning and weeks of labor went into preparing the campus for the main ceremony. Bright flowers were planted across campus, fountains were drained and repainted, and lampposts and signs received touch-ups.

About 44,000 white folding chairs were arranged in rows for the main ceremony and individual schools’ satellite ceremonies around campus, while a new cardinal and gold awning shaded the deans, trustees, honorary degree recipients and other dignitaries on the main stage in front of Doheny Memorial Library.

Toward the end of the ceremony, 200 doves — twice as many as in previous years — were released.

Six global leaders, including Iovine, also received honorary degrees for contributions to the civic, academic and arts worlds. The honorees included John Gurdon, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist whose experiments in the field of cloning laid the foundation for modern stem cell research; David Henry Hwang, renowned playwright, screenwriter and librettist best known as the author of M. Butterfly; Glorya Kaufman, arts benefactor whose 2012 gift to establish the USC Kaufman School of Dance was one of the largest gifts in the history of American dance; Edward P. Roski Jr. ’62, businessman, USC alumnus and chairman of the USC Board of Trustees, whose contributions to the region include a co-ownership of the Los Angeles Kings, the Lakers and Staples Center; and Gayle Garner Roski, longtime USC supporter and namesake for the USC Roski School of Fine Arts, whose watercolors have been exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the world.

In addition, Nikias recognized valedictorian Katherine Fu and salutatorians Alexander Fullman and Julia Mangione. Fu, Fullman and Mangione earned bachelor’s degrees in neuroscience and biological sciences, political science and international relations, respectively.

University Professor Solomon Golomb and Valedictorian Katherine Fu (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

University Professor Solomon Golomb and Valedictorian Katherine Fu (USC Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

Fu spent four years working at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute, housed at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and also earned a minor in Popular Music studies (“Did you hear that, Jimmy?” Nikias said to Iovine when he came to that item on her list of degrees and accolades.)

Recalling advice given to her by a friend, Fu told her fellow graduates to remember to stay grounded, and expressed gratitude to her professors, mentors and classmates who helped her to do just that.

“As we leave today to disperse across the globe, I hope that you will have learned the value of community just as I did,” she said. “I hope that we will share the spirit of the Trojan Family with each of those we encounter.”

Fu said that the class of 2013 was ready to embark on epic journeys, just like the legendary Trojans of the past.

“But instead of conquering the world with swords and spears, we wield our talent, our experiences, and above all our unrelenting fighting spirit to weave our efforts into the fabric of society and to write our stories in permanent ink,” she said.

“You do not go forward alone,” she continued. “You go forward as a lifelong member of the Trojan Family.”

Iovine closed his commencement address to a standing ovation by quoting not William Shakespeare or Robert Frost, but his favorite poet — singer R. Kelly.

“Today is the remix to ignition. You’re hot and fresh out the kitchen. You’ve got the entire student body here. You’ve got every graduate wishin’,” Iovine yelled as the cheers began. “It’s their graduation, baby, and tonight they’re going to have some fun.”

Read stories about the 2013 graduates here.

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