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Diamond Anniversary Sparkles at Doheny

USC President Rufus von KleinSmid opens the Doheny Library’s massive bronze-cast doors for the first time on Sept. 12, 1932.

Photo/USC Archives

On Sept. 12 � 75 years later to the day after the dedication of the Doheny Memorial Library � a commemorative address at 4:30 p.m. by USC College professor and California State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr will mark a milestone year.

Over the next several months, a virtual exhibition, tours and other activities will celebrate the Romanesque structure’s architectural and intellectual significance to USC.

“An exquisite repository of knowledge, the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library has been a wellspring of intellectual inquiry and reflection for generations of Trojans in the past and will be for generations still to come,” said USC President Steven B. Sample.

“Built in honor of a Trojan, this lofty edifice � the face of USC at each commencement � is a living monument to the nobility of learning as well as a gateway to exploring the world through its wealth of resources.”

That combination of preserving the past and inspiring the future is the mark of a great research library, said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries.

“Doheny Library embodies the legacy of the Doheny family, forever reminding us of their commitment to preserving the past for tomorrow’s scholars,” Quinlan said.

“Yet within the stately architecture, the excitement for creating new knowledge is as powerful as the reverence for what came before. It’s that strength of cultural and intellectual continuity that allows the spirit of discovery to persist and thrive.”

The parents of prominent USC alumnus Edward L. Doheny Jr. donated $1.1 million for the library’s construction. Estelle Doheny � Edward’s stepmother � was so pleased when the building was completed that she made an additional gift to fund landscaping. As a result, Trojans enjoy the sycamore-lined quadrangle known as Alumni Memorial Park.

The library’s dedication ceremony was front-page news across the country. Even in the midst of the Great Depression, newspapers celebrated the occasion.

In the decades since, Doheny Library has become one of USC’s most recognizable landmarks. The library has hosted countless authors, scholars and world leaders � including U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford. It has been a fixture in Hollywood movies ranging from The Graduate to Live Free or Die Hard.

The library has changed over the years to best serve the academic, technological and study-space needs of USC’s students and faculty. It gained 53,000 square feet in a 1967 addition that altered its original “H” design. A seismic retrofit closed the building from 1999-2001, during which time preservationists also restored the splendor of the interior architectural details.

In 2006, the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation donated $1 million to create the LiteraTea teahouse and renovate the surrounding courtyard and entryway. The resulting Younes and Soraya Nazarian Pavilion has become a popular social and academic destination for students and faculty.

Architectural changes notwithstanding, the library’s inspirational character persists.

“It is the place where ideas are explored, creativity honored, the written word immortalized and the pursuit of truth held sacred,” Sample said.

In 1932, Los Angeles Times journalist Ransome Sutton wrote of the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library: “To be sure, the library will stand there a long time � as long perhaps, as Los Angeles lasts.”

Information on other diamond-anniversary events and activities will be available at as they are scheduled.

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