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USC's Steven Sample, soon to retire as president, says farewell at graduation ceremony

May 14, 2010 | 12:52 pm

USC's president Steven B. Sample, who is about to retire after 19 years in the post, bade farewell to the campus Friday with a philosophical commencement speech that urged graduates to think about life's big issues, not just their own careers.

"I want to talk to you about your personal development as human beings. Because, in the final analysis, what determines a person's ultimate success is not so much his professional abilities or political brilliance as it is his character," Sample said at the outdoor ceremony in Alumni Park on the university's Los Angeles campus. He told the graduates to consider deeply their feelings about money and its accumulation, about the welfare and education of America's children, and about God or the absence of one.

By finding personal answers to those issues, he said, "you will almost certainly gain a better understanding of the meaning of life, of your place in the universe, and of how you might live in productive peace and harmony with your fellow human beings. And that, after all, is what living is all about." Sample ended his speech with the traditional USC Trojans' chant: "Fight On!"

Sample is scheduled to retire Aug. 3 and will be succeeded by C.L. "Max" Nikias, who has been USC's provost and second in command.

Among those receiving honorary degrees from the university Friday were William J. Bratton, Los Angeles' former police chief; Festus G. Mogae, past president of Botswana and leader in the fight against AIDS in Africa; and Esa-Pekka Salonen, former music director of the L.A. Philharmonic.

-- Larry Gordon