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Chaplain Alvin Rudisill steps down. A catalyst for change, he forged
new bonds with the neighborhood.

After 25 years as USC’s spiritual leader and a decade of shepherding
its outreach programs in the community, Alvin S. Rudisill will step
down as university chaplain and head of USC Civic and Community

“I have been considering for some time the need for a sabbatical
opportunity to reflect on USC’s community relations over the last 10
years, particularly our relationship to the local churches,” said
Rudisill. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to teach full-time,
and to do some serious research, writing and thinking.”

Rudisill’s resignation from civic and community relations will be
effective Dec. 30. He will continue as university chaplain until the
end of the academic year. After a year of administrative leave, he
plans to return to his full-time faculty appointments in the schools of
Religion, where he will continue to teach, and Medicine, where he has
served on several medical review boards.

“We all owe Al Rudisill a big debt of gratitude,” said Jane Pisano,
vice president for external relations. “For 10 years, he has put a
human face on this institution and effectively communicated USC’s
desire to partner with our neighbors. It’s been a win-win for the
community and for USC.”

President Steven B. Sample observed that the vital partnership that
exists between USC and its neighbors grows out of Rudisill’s leadership
during the past decade. “Building on the foundation of the Rev. Thomas
Kilgore, Al Rudisill and his staff in civic and community relations
have forged many beneficial partnerships with our neighbors that will
have a profound and lasting effect not only on our immediate
communities, but as a model for the larger region.”

Since he took over as director of USC Civic and Community Relations,
Rudisill said, he believes the university “has been more and more
involved in efforts which really resonate in the community.” Along with
initiating projects, “our role has often been political or moral
support in numerous efforts to enrich the neighborhood, ranging from
graffiti clean-up to building affordable housing.”

Rudisill joined USC as the campus Lutheran pastor in 1962. In 1969, he
was named university chaplain and appointed associate professor of
religion in historical theology. In 1982, he joined the School of
Medicine as an associate professor in biomedical ethics in the
Department of Pediatrics.

He served as director of civic and community relations from 1984 to
1987, then was named associate vice president for that office. He
served as interim director of the Center for Multiethnic and
Transnational Studies in 1992-93 and is now a senior fellow at the

Rudisill has been a driving force behind many of USC’s community
outreach efforts, which have multiplied in the past decade. With a
current mailing list of more than 7,500 partners, civic and community
relations acts as a clearing house for the hundreds of programs and
partnerships that connect USC to its neighborhood and city.

“I think the thing I rejoice in the most is our network of friends and
colleagues,” said Rudisill. “It’s really quite overwhelming. We really
work together.”

Along with community outreach, Rudisill has provided key leadership in
university campus life, serving as chairman of the Commission on
Student Life; the FASTEN conference, which established a model for
student-faculty weekends; and other critical student affairs committees
and task forces.

He has also chaired or served on numerous administrative committees,
such as the Administrative Outreach Group, since 1993; the Diversity
Coordinating Committee, since 1991; USC United Way, from 1991 to 1993;
USC in the Community/Schools, since 1990; and the Fetal-Infant-Child
Care Review Committee, since 1986.

Rudisill was the first USC administrator with a formal community
relations position. Until the early 1970s, most of the university’s
community outreach efforts were academically based – in units that
studied and analyzed data related to urban Los Angeles.

Rudisill’s own interest in urban affairs began early, during his
adolescence in Philadelphia, and grew in his years as a graduate
student at the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1950s, he served a
parish in Northern New Jersey linked to another in East Harlem. After
being assigned to campus ministry, he ended up serving USC and Cal
State L.A.

Upon the retirement of the Rev. Kilgore, who had been the president’s
advisor for special community affairs, Rudisill was asked by president
James H. Zumberge to direct the Office of Civic and Community
Relations. He set out with three goals: to establish a serious rapport
with the community; to foster a diverse staff and develop patience as a
key to achieving change in a pluralistic community.

Rudisill also determined that “if we were serious about a partnership,
we had to really listen to the community and establish some rapport
with them.”

He launched a “Community Initiative” – a conversation among USC and
about 200 of its neighbors. The dialogue revealed that the
neighborhood’s greatest need was a community infrastructure. At the
same time, the university needed organizations with which it could form
community partnerships.

In response to these findings, Rudisill’s office spearheaded the United
Neighborhood Council, a broad-based coalition of residents, businesses,
social service organizations and churches located near the University
Park Campus dedicated to improving the lives of people living or
working near the campus.

After establishing the council, USC sought to mobilize the educational
resources of the community by joining with other area colleges and
institutions to provide assistance to local schools. In 1989, the
Education Consortium of Central Los Angeles allied 36 schools of the
Los Angeles Unified School District and 12 Catholic schools with the
educational resources and expertise of USC, Mount St. Mary’s College,
Hebrew Union College and Los Angeles Trade Technical College, along
with the Museum of Science and Industry, the Museum of Natural History
and the California Afro-American Museum.

During Rudisill’s tenure, the university also sought to advance the
community’s economic development, helping create the Central City
Enterprise Zone and the Small Business Assistance program.

While it is difficult to quantify USC’s progress in its community
relations and contributions to local development, Rudisill noted that,
10 years ago, there was only one church-based affordable housing
project in the area. Now there are almost a dozen. “It shows the degree
the community has changed, and USC has been a catalyst in that change.”

One of his most memorable moments as a witness to that change, Rudisill
recalled, came the day representatives were elected to the United
Neighborhood Council. He was at a polling booth at a neighborhood
playground when an elderly Central American woman was asked to vote for
one of her neighbors. While others were skeptical about the need to
vote, this woman cast her ballot proudly.

“Afterwards, she said, ‘this is the first time in my life I’ve ever
voted,'” Rudisill recalled. “I cried, because this was so poignant to

[Photo:] Alvin S. Rudisill


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