Verna B. Dauterive has pledged $25 million to USC. Her gift, whose specific designation has yet to be determined, is made in memory of her late husband, Peter W. Dauterive, a 1949 graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business.
“This is a history-making gift,” said USC President Steven B. Sample. “It is the largest ever made by an African-American to a U.S. institution of higher learning. We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Verna Dauterive — an alumna who personifies excellence in her professional and civic life — for honoring her alma mater in this way.
“Verna is a wonderful person and a wonderful Trojan. She is one of the most caring and unselfish people I have ever known. Through the generosity of Verna, and her late husband, Peter, this university will be significantly strengthened for many, many years to come.”
Born and raised in Louisiana, the Dauterives met as students in USC’s Doheny Memorial Library and maintained lifelong ties to the university.
After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Peter Dauterive enrolled at USC under the GI Bill. He graduated near the top of his class, and USC secured a placement for him at the Broadway Federal Savings & Loan Association, where he rose to the position of executive vice president and managing officer.
He later earned a master’s degree in executive management from the University of Indiana and in 1973 became founding president and CEO of the Founders Savings & Loan Association.
Active in the Republican Party, he was a member of the Republican National Committee and a delegate at the party’s national conventions from 1976 through 1996. President Reagan named him to the National Commission for Employment Policy, and he sat on several state commissions as well, including the California Economic Development Corp.
He also was a board member for numerous charitable and educational organizations, among them the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, California Science Center and Los Angeles Figueroa Corridor.
At the same time, Peter Dauterive stayed connected with USC, supporting the university’s cancer center as well as its business and education schools.
Verna Dauterive received her bachelor of science degree from Texas’ Wiley College (home of “the great debaters”) in 1943 and moved to California shortly after graduation. Within months, she landed a teaching job and embarked upon a 62-year career with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
While employed with the district, she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in education at USC, taking classes at night and on weekends. Her dissertation was a historical-legal study of integration in U.S. public schools — a subject she was encouraged to take up by D. Lloyd Nelson, one of her professors.
“Dr. Nelson took a special interest in each and every student — as professors at USC still do — but he took a special interest in me,” she recalled. “He encouraged me to think about this as a topic that would be important to the city, state and country.”
In fact, her dissertation has been widely used as a reference for law students.
She went on to serve in a variety of administrative capacities at the school district, holding several principalships, coordinating integration programs during the 1960s/1970s and later taking leadership positions in teacher selection and recruitment, and university relations.
In 1982, she became principal of Franklin Avenue Elementary School — a job she held until her retirement in 2005.
At the state level, she served on the California Commission on the Status of Women and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing — on appointment by governors Deukmejian and Wilson, respectively — serving two terms as elected chair of each body.
Throughout the years, she has cultivated a close, multifaceted relationship with her alma mater. In 1960-61, she was a founding member of the USC Rossier School of Education’s first support group (EDUCARE), becoming its first woman president in 1974-75. She led the drive to create the school’s first endowed faculty position, the Irving R. Melbo Chair in Education. She has been an adjunct professor, served on all of the school’s decanal search committees since 1973 and continues to be a life member of USC Rossier’s Alumni and Support Association and a member of its board of councilors.
In 1985, she and her husband endowed the Dr. Verna B. Dauterive and Peter W. Dauterive Scholarship — the university’s first scholarship for minority doctoral students in education.
An equally ardent ambassador for the greater university, she was one of a small group of alumni brought together by then-USC President John Hubbard in 1975 to meet with the Rev. Thomas Kilgore Jr., forming the nucleus of the USC Black Alumni Association.
She has served on the boards of the USC Associates and the USC Alumni Association and is currently a life member of Town & Gown as well as a chairman-level member of the USC Associates.
About her current gift, Verna Dauterive is humble.
“It’s an act that praises and thanks the university for its achievements and its dedication to diversity and global outreach,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to reach back and help those who follow and to leave a legacy for Peter, which will stand him in good stead in the years to come.”
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