Rick Caruso’s first gift to USC came in 1979, a year before he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business: a $50 donation to the USC Inter-Greek Society Fund. That modest contribution marked the start of Caruso’s philanthropy — a long legacy of generosity toward his alma mater.
With a recent pledge of renewed support for the USC Caruso Catholic Center — his family donated the lead gift to build the center and Our Savior Parish Church more than a decade ago — the Caruso family’s total giving to the university now exceeds $50 million.
He explains that his philanthropy runs parallel to his guiding principles of faith, family and friends. “If you don’t have those priorities to lean on, it’s very easy for you to get out of sorts,” he says.
Philanthropy that Supports and Serves
Those values prompted Rick and Tina Caruso to endow the USC Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery with a $25 million gift in 2015. They became personally invested in advancing the field when their daughter, Gianna, was born with moderate hearing loss, and have been heartened by the broader impact of their donation.
“His family’s gift has allowed our department to grow tremendously and expand our clinical presence throughout Los Angeles,” says John S. Oghalai, who leads the otolaryngology program as the Leon J. Tiber and David S. Alpert Chair in Medicine. “That allows us to help more people and dedicate more support toward our research and educational missions.”
I can think of no higher honor in the field of education than being able to give back and support the future of young men and women who will be the leaders of our society.Rick Caruso
Doctors and researchers at the center use the latest technology to help restore hearing for patients like Gianna, as well as treat throat cancer, voice disorders, sinus problems, sleep apnea, cosmetic deformities and other diseases of the head and neck.
The Carusos have also donated to USC Athletics; business, public policy, gerontology and architecture schools; the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center; the USC Alumni Association and many other areas of campus. It’s something Caruso views as both a responsibility and a privilege.
“I can think of no higher honor in the field of education than being able to give back and support the future of young men and women who will be the leaders of our society,” he says. “What an exciting service to be part of.”