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

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

 
Comments () | Archives (2)

Well done President Sample. Thanks for all that you've done for this great university.

I heard Steven Sample's address yesterday at USC's commencement. I have to admit, as one of the oldest graduates attending (I received a masters in educational psychology, at the age of 54) I expected to be bored by this ceremony. Yet Sample's message regarding money, children, and God surprisingly resonated with my own experience and left me feeling grateful that I chose to attend USC.

I teach at an inner-city middle school serving children from one of the troubled neighborhoods near USC. While some might say I should be squirreling away money for retirement, for the past two years I have spent my discretionary income on graduate coursework at USC. I felt I needed to extend my education in order to work more effectively with the children I'm entrusted. I have designed a research project that I will begin in the fall testing the use of incentives to spur academic development of inner-city youth from low-income homes. This career path evolved following spiritual growth I found living in India and Japan in the 1980-90's.

Sample's message was gratifying because it aligned my life's journey - seeking answers to questions regarding the existence of God, attending to the needs of children, and using money strategically - with what I believe are the deeper core values of our society. Everyone needs reassurance occasionally to know they are on the right path. Yesterday, Steven Sample's commencement speech gave me that.


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