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USC Viterbi School Gets $22 Million Gift

C. L. Max Nikias, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, strolls the University Park campus with Mark Stevens.

Photo/Felipe Dupouy

One of the Silicon Valley’s most successful venture capitalists has given $22 million to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to create an institute that commercializes technological innovations of faculty and teaches students the fundamentals of the commercialization process.

“Engineering can be a powerful engine for making a better world in the 21st century, but engineering students today must learn the fundamentals of technology transfer and commercialization,” said Mark A. Stevens who, with his wife Mary, gave the gift.

For a story on the school’s celebration of the gift, click here.

Stevens is a general partner at Sequoia Capital, a USC trustee, a member of the USC Viterbi School’s board of councilors and an alumnus of the school.

USC President Steven B. Sample, an electrical engineer who helped develop the digital controls used in today’s microwave ovens and other household appliances, hailed the news.

“It’s a great honor that Mary and Mark Stevens have chosen to associate their name with an academic enterprise dedicated to encouraging innovation in the lab and translation to the marketplace,” Sample said.

“Drawing on his USC undergraduate and graduate education in economics and electrical and computer engineering, Mark Stevens has worked diligently as an inspired entrepreneur to further the commercialization of technology,” he added. “This institute will serve as an extraordinary catalyst for our students and faculty to turn their research into products that address a vast spectrum of societal needs.

“Thanks to Mary and Mark Stevens’ forward-looking generosity, we will not only speed up our ability to turn laboratory research into marketplace reality,” Sample said, “but we will also be able to attract and retain the best professors and educate the best students. Their gift truly has the potential to transform this university.”

C. L. Max Nikias, dean of the USC Viterbi School, said the new institute would be called the Mark and Mary Stevens Institute for Technology Commercialization, or SITeC.

The Stevens’ gift is the largest naming gift to establish a technology commercialization institute at an engineering school, said Nikias, who noted that neither Stevens nor Sequoia would receive any special consideration in regards to commercialization ventures.

SITeC will have a dual mission, Nikias said. A professional staff, including an executive director, intellectual property attorney and marketing experts, will help researchers in the USC Viterbi School, and other parts of USC, to commercialize new technologies produced by their research.

As more USC technological innovations enter the marketplace, creating new opportunities and jobs, SITeC could provide a significant economic boost for Southern California, the state and even the nation as a whole, Nikias said.

“Many companies have learned that the USC Viterbi School welcomes cooperation and collaboration with industry,” Stevens said. “I hope that SITeC will spread this message still further.”

SITeC will also have an educational mission � one that will enhance the USC Viterbi School’s curriculum.

“We will collaborate with the USC Marshall School of Business and the USC Law School to create a strong academic program providing comprehensive technology commercialization education and training for all of our engineering students, both undergraduates and graduates,” Nikias said.

“Everyone who earns an engineering degree from the USC Viterbi School will leave here with a basic understanding of the key elements of technology commercialization � intellectual property, business, economics, marketing, management, business plan development and ethics as they relate to technology commercialization. We believe this to be unique in engineering education.”

He added that all USC students, not just engineering students, would be able to take the SITeC courses. He said that SITeC would also hold regular seminars to educate faculty in technology commercialization across USC.

“This will be a resource for the entire university,” Nikias said.

The $22 million gift from Stevens and his wife is the second largest in the USC Viterbi School’s seven-year, $300 million fund-raising initiative, which has raised $160 million in its first three years. Only Andrew and Erna Viterbi’s $52 million naming gift last March was larger.

Stevens, 44, grew up in Culver City. He earned a BS degree in electrical engineering, a BA in economics and an MS in computer engineering from USC, as well as an MBA from Harvard.

At Sequoia, Stevens focuses on semiconductor, software and systems-related investments, and has been a perennial on the Forbes magazine Midas List of top 100 venture capitalists, rising as high as No. 10.

USC Viterbi School Gets $22 Million Gift

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