Good evening, Fellow Trojans !
I have the honor and privilege to accept this award speaking to you live, from the USC Campus, here at the magnificent Intellectual Commons Room in Doheny Library.
Congratulations to my fellow Honorees, I salute your service to USC. And thank you to my family, friends, and colleagues for your support and participation in this evening’s event. I will strive to live up to the legacy of past Asa V. Call Honorees, and I pledge my continued commitment to support President Folt and Board Chairman Caruso as we work together to help USC achieve its extraordinary potential for the future.
This award is very meaningful to me for a myriad of reasons.
I was 18 years old when I first set foot on campus, straight off the plane from Chicago. I’d never seen The University of Southern California, nor visited Los Angeles. USC and Los Angeles were a new world for me.
My parents helped support my tuition through school and I earned my own living expenses waiting tables in the summer, and working at jobs downtown at The Broadway and Robinson’s department stores during the academic year. My studies were focused on computer science and business administration. Fraternity life as a member of Aloha Tau Omega was an important part of campus life and learning the value of community service.
The four years I spent at USC were full of hope, challenge, potential and opportunity, and they were the foundation for my future personal and professional success. I owe much to this University and to Los Angeles, and it’s a great honor and privilege to serve on the Board of Trustees. USC now finds itself at a similar inflection point of hope, challenge, potential and opportunity and there’s no doubt that, together, we will seize this opportunity to be a beacon for the 21st century.
This last year for all of us was a journey to a place where we had never been, a journey that challenged us in extraordinary ways, without ever leaving home.
Like any journey, our experiences during the pandemic have changed us in ways we recognize and in ways we have yet to understand.
As we now turn our attention to the brighter days ahead, let us ensure our challenges during this past year have not been for nothing. The pandemic has forced USC to adapt, think outside the box, challenge traditional practices in higher education, and develop new and innovative ways of teaching, learning and connecting with our students.
Major change in life is very hard when you have to initiate it yourself – but when major change is initiated for you, as we have experienced in the pandemic-we have the opportunity and obligation to take advantage of it.
The questions of how we have changed will be with us in the months, and years, ahead. Our process of reflection, and personal action on that change, is just beginning. We have a window now to look at our lives anew.
As we do that—as we look at our lives anew, it is clear that no institution has made more dramatic progress at looking at its life anew than USC.
Our 4,700 full time faculty completely revamped or newly constructed for presentation online over 8,000 individual courses throughout USC’s 22 academic schools. We developed innovative methods for research, telemedicine, and collaborative learning, among others.
Throughout the pandemic, USC has continued to take a leading role in educating and preparing our 46,000 students to build a rewarding, sustainable, and socially responsible future global society. We continue to discover numerous teaching and research innovations that will surely carry through to the post pandemic reality.
We can all learn from the example set by USC, and challenge ourselves with the hard questions about how we live and how we make meaning of our short time here on this earth. We really do have a window and responsibility now to look at our lives anew.
When asked what will people say 100 years from now looking back at the pandemic, I am particularly struck by the comments by Dr. Reed Tuckson, co-founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, “I’m an optimist. So I believe 100 years from now, the nation and the world will acknowledge that confronted by a global pandemic, we understood the essential interrelationship that we have with each other, and that we learned our lesson – that we must treat each human life with dignity, respect and ethically based compassion.”
Having been given the opportunity to help USC navigate the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and other major transgressions with which we are all too familiar, as we look at our lives anew, I can say with clarity, confidence, and bold enthusiasm, that USC will lead the way with a culture of dignity, respect, and ethically based compassion for every member of the Trojan Family.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, I’ve thought a lot about what this award means to me, especially in context of the last year and the challenges USC has faced, and that we’ve all faced.
Finally, USC taught me not just what I needed to learn, but how to learn, and in that spirit, I take comfort in this passage from “The Once and Future King” written in 1958 by the great British author, T.H. White;
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, …. “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
And USC continues to teach to us all to follow that quest for learning.
It’s been my honor to be with everyone this evening, and I look forward to seeing so many of you on campus soon.
Fight On !