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Barbara Solomon Receives a Touching Send-Off

Provost Lloyd Armstrong Jr. presided over the Town and Gown event that paid tribute to the years of service by outgoing Vice Provost Barbara J. Solomon. “Words can’t express the impact that Barbara has had on this institution and on my office,” Armstrong said.

photo: Irene Fertik

IT’S OFFICIAL: Barbara Solomon, widely referred to as “the conscience of USC,” is on sabbatical. And when she returns to campus next year, she will exchange the rigors of administration for the sweet life of the classroom.

Well, sort of.

“She has agreed that when she comes back from her sabbatical, she will reassume the title of vice provost for minority affairs,” relinquishing the title of vice provost for faculty affairs, Provost Lloyd Armstrong Jr. told a group of well-wishers who gathered on Monday, Nov. 2, in Town and Gown to lovingly tease and praise Solomon about the latest tack her career has taken.

Martin L. Levine, who will carry out the duties of vice provost for minority affairs until Solomon returns, has been appointed vice provost for faculty and minority affairs.

While on sabbatical, Solomon will not exactly be idle. She has a research contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and a visiting examiner appointment at Chinese University of Hong Kong that will require at least one visit to review the curriculum of the university’s social work department. Solomon also has been invited to present a paper at a major international conference in Sweden next April. But her first passion, a classroom filled with eager students, will be awaiting her return next fall.

“After 13 years of wandering in the wilderness of academic administration, we had begun to wonder whether you would ever make it back” to the classroom, said Rino Patti, who was a step ahead of Solomon when he relinquished his position as dean of the School of Social Work, returning to the classroom a year ago.

Patti, in roast-like fashion, upbraided Solomon for her tardiness in returning as a member of the USC faculty.

“Three, four, even five years of administrative service . . . is understandable,” Patti said. “Eight, nine, 10 years begins to raise serious questions about one’s mental status. But 13 years is evidence of an even darker prospect.”

Turning serious, Patti praised Solomon for her contributions to the university.

“ We have appreciated your labors: making the graduate school truly supportive of graduate education; leading efforts to improve minority faculty recruitment and retention . . . [and] for providing a voice of probity and reason during times of retrenchment,” Patti said. “So it is with relief that those of us who admire and love you welcome you back to the sweet life.”

The esteem in which Solomon is held was apparent during the reception hosted by Armstrong.

“When I came here in 1969, Barbara changed my life,” said Michael Jackson, a manager with the county Department of Social Services and a part-time instructor at USC. “I had no idea what I was going to do with a degree in social work. She told me that I was just the type of person she wanted at USC in grad school. I was admitted and now I have my doctorate.”

USC’s commitment to diversity can be laid squarely at Solomon’s doorstep, said associate English professor Teresa McKenna.

“She worked tirelessly to bring a number of women faculty and faculty of color to USC,” McKenna said. “Barbara was always, and still is, our best secret weapon. On behalf of us all, Barbara, I thank you for your generous spirit, for your rare combination of idealism, pragmatism and wicked sense of humor.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke also shared her feelings about Solomon, giving her an official scroll that recognized Solomon’s years of service to USC and the larger community.

Solomon’s ability to influence others was also praised by state Sen. Diane Watson.

“When I first met her, I knew she was a person I wanted to emulate,” Watson said. “You have made this university sensitive, so that it relates to the community around it and to the broader community.”

Provost Armstrong agreed.

“Words can’t express the impact that Barbara has had on this institution and on my office,” he said.

Barbara Solomon Receives a Touching Send-Off

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