A $3.5 million gift from real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Keston and his wife, Linda, will create the first endowed directorship position at the Information Sciences Institute based at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
The Marina Del Rey-based institute, an agent of computing innovation for more than 40 years, has played a role in the protocols of the Internet, the Domain Naming System — .com, .net, .edu — grid computing, e-science and artificial intelligence. In 2011, it became home to the first operational quantum computing system in academia, in partnership with Lockheed Martin.
“My wife and I like to contribute to causes that are important in the world, but also to people that we would work with,” said Michael Keston, who earned engineering degrees before moving into real estate. “More than a project in particular, what drew my interest toward ISI were the talented people that work there.”
The institute’s first philanthropic gift will support its mission of conducting groundbreaking research in the areas of information processing, computer and communications technologies. However, it will also be used to diversify the institute’s research portfolio.
“Michael and Linda Keston’s gift is visionary and inspiring,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said. “Being the first of its kind to ISI, it is pioneering a path that will further propel ISI to the leading edge of thought leadership in information and computer science and technology.”
Added Prem Natarajan, Keston executive director of ISI and research professor in the Department of Computer Science: “The Keston gift instantly provides a prestigious platform and valuable resources for recruiting exciting new talent to ISI. It ensures ISI’s continued vitality and success by enabling us to invest in new, high-risk ideas that can exert global impact.”
Along these lines, Natarajan wants to offer research residencies that would allow scientists to come to ISI for a year to develop new projects, with the successful ones evolving into permanent areas of investigative focus.
Michael Keston has a long-standing relationship with USC. He serves on the Board of Councilors of the USC Price School of Public Policy and the executive committee of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. He has taught in the Dollinger Master of Real Estate Development program at USC for more than 20 years.
He is currently chairman and CEO of the KFG Investment Co., a privately owned real estate company that has built and marketed approximately 30,000 residential units in 140 communities since he joined in 1970.
Keston said he and his wife are thrilled to support an institution as innovative as ISI.
“When I became aware of the technological advances that were taking place at ISI, the engineer in me wanted to be a part of what helps them occur,” Keston said. “The institute is absolutely extraordinary.”
The Campaign for the University of Southern California is a multiyear effort that seeks to raise $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand its positive impact on the community and world. Four years after its launch, the campaign has raised more than $4.6 billion.