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President Steven B. Sample to Retire in August

Steven Sample
Steven B. Sample, USC's 10th president, led the university from 1991 to 2010. (Photo/Philip Channing)

Steven B. Sample, president of the University of Southern California since 1991, announced on Nov. 2 that he will retire in August 2010.

Sample is widely credited with bringing about an institutional rise at USC that is unparalleled in American higher education.

Under Sample’s leadership, the university became a highly selective undergraduate institution, drove faculty excellence to new levels; completed the largest fund-raising campaign in the history of higher education; created a global network of scholars and programs, especially around the Pacific Rim; built successful partnerships in its neighborhoods to spur economic and educational development; and embraced its place as the largest private employer and key social force in the City of Los Angeles.

USC Board of Trustees Chairman Edward P. Roski Jr., president and chief executive officer of Majestic Realty Co., said: “Dr. Sample has engineered the most dramatic rise in quality and ranking of any American university. From the very start he understood the entrepreneurial zeal of USC and fueled our desire to be excellent. Again and again, he would achieve his objectives for the university but would then push even harder, urging everyone to reach for even higher goals. If there were a tag line for his leadership style, it would be ‘Never let up.’ And the results have been nothing short of spectacular. Filling his shoes will be a big job for the trustees in our search for Sample’s successor.” (Visit a Web site with Sample’s letter to the USC community, a photo gallery and the opportunity to share messages with the president at

Sample became the 10th president of USC in March 1991, after service as president of The State University of New York at Buffalo.

Under his leadership, USC has become world-renowned in the fields of communication and multimedia technologies, received national acclaim for its innovative community partnerships and solidified its status as one of the nation’s leading research universities. During his tenure, USC climbed 25 points in the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings, an increase that is unprecedented for its rapidity and magnitude.

“For Kathryn and me, the presidency of USC has been far more than just a job,” Sample said, “it has been a calling, an all-consuming passion to move this university ahead farther and faster than any other university in the United States. We have been blessed to have pursued this mission in the company of many colleagues and friends who share our commitment to USC’s advancement. Our years here have simply been exhilarating.”

Among USC’s milestones in the past 19 years is a national record-setting fund-raising campaign. At its conclusion in December 2002, the campaign had raised $2.85 billion. During Sample’s presidency, USC became the only American university to have received five gifts of $100 million or more:

� $112.5 million from Alfred Mann to establish the USC Alfred Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering
� $110 million from the W. M. Keck Foundation to endow the Keck School of Medicine of USC
� $120 million from the Annenberg Foundation to establish the USC Annenberg Center for Communication
� $100 million from the Annenberg Foundation for the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
� $175 million from USC alumnus George Lucas and his Lucasfilm Foundation to endow the USC School of Cinematic Arts

During his tenure, USC also secured seven school naming gifts: USC Leventhal School of Accounting, USC Marshall School of Business, USC Rossier School of Education, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, USC Roski School of Fine Arts, Keck School of Medicine of USC and USC Thornton School of Music.

In addition, during this time significant faculty achievements included the awarding of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to USC faculty member George Olah and the conferring of the MacArthur Fellowship to USC faculty member Elyn Saks.

At the undergraduate level, USC advanced rapidly as a highly selective university, with SAT scores rising more than 300 points and the number of freshman applications nearly tripling since 1991. This fall, USC enrolled 232 National Merit Scholars in its freshman class, a dramatic increase from 33 in 1991, placing USC among the nation’s top five universities in the number of National Merit Scholars.

In 2000, USC was proclaimed “College of the Year” by Time magazine and the Princeton Review. USC ranked among the top five in the nation in a survey of “Great Colleges to Work For” (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2008), was named a “college with a conscience” for its service learning and community involvement in 2005 and this year ranked No. 1 in the Saviors of Our Cities: A Survey of Best College and University Civic Partnerships.

During Sample’s tenure, the university claimed 20 national championships in men’s and women’s intercollegiate sports, including back-to-back national titles in football and women’s volleyball.

About Steven B. Sample

Sample, the university’s first holder of the Robert C. Packard President’s Chair, is an electrical engineer, a musician, an outdoorsman, an author and an inventor. In February 1998, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to consumer electronics and leadership in interdisciplinary research and education. In 2003, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of his accomplishments as a university president.

He has remained an active member of USC’s faculty, co-teaching with management expert Warren Bennis a popular course for juniors and seniors titled The Art and Adventure of Leadership. His book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, has been a Los Angeles Times best seller, was named one of six “must-reads” for leaders by Harvard Management Update of the Harvard Business School and was chosen by the Toronto Globe as one of the 10 best business books of 2001. In October 2009, it was named best business book by It has been translated into five languages. He donates all royalties to a scholarship fund for USC undergraduates.

Sample is the author of numerous journal articles and published papers in science and engineering and higher education. His patents in the field of digital appliance controls have been licensed to practically every major manufacturer of appliance controls and microwave ovens in the world. More than 300 million home appliances have been built using his inventions.

Sample has chaired a number of statewide and national groups examining the state of elementary, secondary and higher education. In 1994, he convened a group of Los Angeles leaders that was awarded a historic $53 million challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation to accelerate reforms in local public schools.

He is a past chairman of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of the 62 leading North American research universities. He chaired a special AAU committee on postdoctoral education and co-chaired an AAU task force on increasing protection for human subjects in university-based research.

Sample has long believed in the primacy of Los Angeles as a global hub. He developed the concept of L.A.’s stature as the de facto capital of the Pacific Rim, a claim he substantiates by pointing to L.A.’s strong entrepreneurial-based business and commerce, with its seaports the busiest in the United States; creativity and intellectual capital; and unparalleled diversity.

In order to capitalize on the emerging power and prominence of the Pacific Rim, he co-founded the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a consortium of 42 premier Pacific Rim research universities located in 16 countries that fosters international collaboration among faculty, students and university leaders. He also established USC as an international university by making its global reach an aggressive strategic priority. USC now enrolls more international students than any other college or university in the United States and has international offices in Hong Kong, Mexico City, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.

He earned B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has received honorary doctorates from the University at Buffalo of The State University of New York, the University of Notre Dame, Northeastern University, the University of Nebraska, Purdue University, Hebrew Union College, the University of Sheffield, England and Canisius College, Buffalo.

The recipient of numerous awards, Sample recently received the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Founders Medal, the Distinguished Business Leader Award from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Heart of the City Award from the Central City Association of Los Angeles and the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, the highest award bestowed by the University at Buffalo of The State University of New York.

He has also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice), the Hollzer Memorial Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Eddy Award for excellence in economic development from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation and the University of Illinois’ Alumni Achievement Award.

Sample is married to the former Kathryn Brunkow of Park Ridge, III. The Samples have two daughters, Michelle Sample Smith and Elizabeth Sample, and two grandchildren, Kathryn and Andrew Smith.

President Steven B. Sample to Retire in August

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