USC Price celebrates naming gift
Confetti shot through the air, the Spirit of Troy played the USC fight song and faculty, staff, students, alumni and university officials lifted two fingers in a victory salute on Feb. 7 as the university celebrated the newly named USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
USC president C. L. Max Nikias and USC Price dean Jack H. Knott were joined on stage in front of Lewis Hall by brothers Robert and Larry Price to officially announce the $50 million naming gift from the Price Family Charitable Fund to honor the life and legacy of entrepreneur and philanthropist Sol Price ’36, ’38.
“The more you learn about Sol Price’s amazing accomplishments in business, public policy and urban development, the more pride you will feel to be associated with a school that bears his name,” Knott said to an audience that included members of the USC Board of Trustees and deans of other USC schools. “Through this gift, we can advance our scholarship on major issues and our work in educating the next generation of leaders in government, in business and in the nonprofit sector.”
Added Nikias, “Sol’s lasting legacy is not limited to his spectacular success in business. Although his companies paid careful attention to the bottom line, he always put people at the top of his agenda. Guided by a strong moral compass and an intense passion for social justice, he felt compelled to find ways to lift people out of poverty and help them rise up the social ladder. Today, we look back with wonder at the way Sol’s businesses, charities and philanthropy have dramatically improved the quality of life for so many people here in Southern California and throughout the world.”
The celebration included a video that illustrated the life and legacy of Price. The video detailed Price’s business success in both retailing and real estate, as well as his investment in revitalizing the San Diego neighborhood of City Heights, his involvement in national public policy, and the integrity and sense of justice that characterized his life.
“I was impressed with the history of Sol Price himself,” said Michael Gazzano, a second-year Master of Real Estate Development student. “Everyone knows him for starting Price Club, but I didn’t know everything else he stood for that hasn’t been widely publicized. After seeing the video and learning more about him, I think it’s actually pretty fitting to name the school after him.”
The gift, which was first announced in November, also will be used to launch the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation, a collaboration between the school and Price Charities that will seek to promote sustainable and replicable models of community development in low-income areas.
Previously known as the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development (SPPD), USC Price began in 1929 after a group of local governmental officials came to the university with the request to create a program that would teach and train the next generation of civic leaders and public servants. Originally called the USC School of Citizenship and Public Administration, it was the first school of its kind in the western part of the United States.
Robert Price gave insight into how the naming came about. His son, David, graduated from the then-SPPD last May. At the Commencement ceremony, Robert Price was touched by the story of Carmen and Allen Gomez, a mother and son who received their diplomas together that day.
Carmen Gomez, an administrative services coordinator at the school, worked full-time and took one class per semester for 22 years to earn her bachelor’s degree. Robert Price began thinking about the link between the school’s mission and areas of expertise, as well as the ideals of his father.
“After much consideration, it became obvious that there would probably never be an opportunity to find this type of naming and way of honoring my dad,” said Robert Price, chairman of the Price Family Charitable Fund.
Sol Price, who died in 2009, graduated from USC with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1936 and a law degree in 1938. His wife, Helen Price ’37, who died a year earlier, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and history. He went on to found Price Club, the retail giant that later merged with Costco. Costco CEO Jim Sinegal attended the naming event.
Nikias presented gifts to the Price family, including a special citation designed by a commissioned artist, signed by Nikias and USC Board of Trustees chairman Edward P. Roski, Jr.
“Although Sol Price passed on in 2009, his legacy lives on today,” Nikias said. “It lives on through the many lives he touched, the friendships he formed and the family who carries on his values and his ideals. It will live on through the students, faculty and alumni who will leave this campus to serve the world. And it will live on forever through the halls of the school that proudly bears his name.”