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Couple Gives $2 Million to School of Gerontology

Donors Edward and Rita Polusky

Retired United Parcel Service executive Edward Polusky and his wife, Rita, have given the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology $2 million to establish the Rita and Edward Polusky Chair in Education and Aging.

The Poluskys, residents of Hilton Head, S.C., are longtime supporters of USC’s Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, establishing the Ed and Rita Polusky Student Aid Endowment fund in 1982 and making regular gifts to the Ed and Rita Polusky Scholarship fund – one of the center’s largest individually funded scholarship endowments, supporting as many as six gerontology students per year.

“This wonderful gift from Edward and Rita Polusky will enable us, over the years, to fund scholarships to many deserving students, as well as provide ongoing resources to attract and support outstanding faculty in gerontological education and research,” said Edward L. Schneider, dean of the gerontology school and executive director of the Andrus Gerontology Center.

David A. Peterson, a nationally recognized expert on lifelong learning who has served as director of the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology since 1978, has been appointed the first holder of the chair.

Peterson is the author of numerous articles and four books on gerontology education and the instruction of older people, including Facilitating Education for Older Learners (1983) and Career Paths in the Field of Aging (1987).

As associate dean of the Andrus Gerontology Center – a post he has held since 1985 – Peterson is responsible for the center’s instructional programs, including the bachelor of science in gerontology, the master of science in gerontology and the Ph.D. in gerontology, as well as dual-degree programs with 10 other USC schools and departments.

“I am delighted that Dr. Peterson, who is universally recognized as the premier expert on gerontological education, can be recognized through the great honor of being the first holder of the Polusky chair,” Schneider said.

Before joining USC as director of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and a professor of gerontology, Peterson served from 1977 to 1978 as director of the University of Nebraska’s Center on Aging. From 1972 to 1978, he was director of the gerontology program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service, where he also served as a professor of urban studies and gerontology.

From 1971 to 1972 he was a professor of adult and continuing education at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and chairman and assistant professor of educational gerontology at the University of Michigan. From 1969 to 1972 he served as director of training programs and as a research associate at U-M’s Institute of Gerontology.

Peterson is a past president of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education and is a recipient of the Clark Tibbitts Award for outstanding service to the field of academic gerontology (1993).

Peterson – who holds a joint appointment in the School of Education – earned his B.A. degree in history from Albion College, Albion, Mich., in 1959; his M.A. in education from Western Michigan University in 1964; and his Ph.D. in adult education from the University of Michigan in 1969.

The Poluskys’ involvement with the Andrus Gerontology Center dates to 1975 when Edward Polusky was instrumental in securing a gift from the UPS Foundation. That gift created the UPS Professorships in Law and Aging, now held by Martin L. Levine, an expert on the legal rights of the elderly who holds joint appointments in the USC schools of law, gerontology and medicine, and Jon Pynoos, who holds joint appointments in the USC schools of gerontology and policy, planning and development.

“It is with great pleasure that we salute Ed and Rita Polusky for their outstanding support and long-term friendship,” said Schneider, who awarded the couple the Dean’s Medallion at the USC Leonard Davis School’s commencement ceremonies in 1998. “Their enthusiasm for the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center has been instrumental in furthering the goals and objectives of the Andrus Center and for its mission of ‘adding life to years.’”

The Dean’s Medallion is given “in recognition of individuals who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the mission” of the Andrus Center.

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