“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Albert Einstein famously said. At USC, we certainly prize pure knowledge—its acquisition and transfer to the next generation—but we agree with Einstein: Using that knowledge to inspire new thought and creativity is our loftiest aspiration.
USC has many friends who share this vision, and chief among them are Mark and Mary Stevens. One of their earliest transformative gifts to our university established the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, which has helped launch 58 startups in the last four years alone, and has raised nearly $60 million.
Beyond this center, the Stevenses have broadly and boldly supported innovation at the university for decades. Another of their gifts drives discovery for medicine and the life sciences, as it established the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. With their support, USC has dramatically grown its vast, university-wide ecosystem for innovation, under-scoring time and again that the USC spirit is indeed the spirit of discovery.
We have seen this outside the sciences, as well. The USC Iovine and Young Academy prepares the next generation of pioneering artist-entrepreneurs, while also helping them develop business and technical expertise. Earlier this semester, we broke ground on the academy’s new home, a 40,000-square-foot building at the corner of Watt Way and Exposition Boulevard, set to open in the winter of 2019.
With this new building, the academy will offer courses to students in other majors, sharing its innovative spirit with all USC students.
The academy graduates its first class this spring, and its students are already making their mark, creating their own successful startups and life-changing inventions. With this new building, the academy will offer courses to students in other majors, sharing its innovative spirit with all USC students. All of this was made possible through the extraordinary generosity of the academy’s namesakes—two of the most creative minds in the music industry, and two of USC’s greatest champions of innovation: Jimmy Iovine and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young.
Marking another milestone in USC’s growth as a center for innovation, we recently opened the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, housed in the single largest research building on either of USC’s campuses. Michelson Hall—built with a landmark gift from retired spinal surgeon Gary Michelson and his wife, Alya—is a state-of-the-art complex, designed with open, shared laboratories that encourage collaboration and new partnerships.
Its team of researchers stands united in the pursuit of medical breakthroughs, but their respective fields are disparate: chemistry, biology, medicine, mathematics, engineering, physics, nanoscience, animation and cinematography. In the coming years, the center will bring together more and more scholars and artists from across USC, providing a home in which our most talented minds tackle our most daunting health problems, namely cancer and infectious diseases.
For these successes, and for keeping USC at the fore of groundbreaking scholarship and art, we should all be grateful to our university’s most passionate sup-porters, great Trojans such as Mark and Mary Stevens, Jimmy Iovine, Andre Young, and Gary and Alya Michelson. They understand that knowledge is power, but the ability to innovate is truly genius.