Jerry Papazian graduated in 1977 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and went on to earn his master of business administration and law degree from UCLA. Papazian served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1994-1999 and as president of the Alumni Association from 1995-1996. Papazian is currently the vice president of corporate finance at Bear, Stearns & Co, Inc.
Daily Trojan: During your time at USC, how important were extracurricular activities for you?
Jerry Papazian: While I was in school I was involved in student government. I was a student senator. I was also chairman of Songfest my senior year. I was very involved in my fraternity as well. There are so many more things you can get involved in now then there were when I attended USC.
DT: What was the most influential thing you did or learned at USC to get you where you are today?
Papazian: Joan Schaefer, affectionately know as Dean Joan, was dean of women. Dean Joan had an advisory role and she probably impacted my life and the lives of thousands of USC students over the years. She was a person who encouraged you to go out there and take full advantage of university life, and to get to know faculty. She is still alive and turning 90 next month. She still comes to the campus one day a week.
In the fraternity, I learned to work with 70-80 guys. That was a good experience for the business world. In student government, I learned about politics. With songfest, I learned about how powerful communication could be. It all paid off in life later on.
DT: Would you encourage students to take that same path and get involved with things outside of academics?
Papazian: Now is the chance to learn and experiment and see what your passions are. So get involved with as many things as you can handle and look around and look in places where you wouldn’t have looked before. My favorite class ironically was an art history class I took freshman year. Where did that come from, I have no idea? To this day, it was my favorite course.
DT: I noticed you received your MBA from UCLA. How was that switch and why did you decide to come back to USC since you are an alumnus of both schools?
Papazian: People will tell you that your heart will always belong to your undergraduate institution. That is true with me. I have been and always will be a Trojan at heart.
DT: What has been your most fond memory of USC since graduating in 1977?
Papazian: Right after 1977, when I graduated, I never stopped. At age 40, I was selected to be president of the Alumni Association but then, also as a result, I became a member of the Board of Trustees. That was probably the most rewarding experience being able to give back to the whole university like that as a trustee.
DT: What is one last piece of advice you would give to the current students of USC?
Papazian: Go out there and get involved and learn about everything that is out there while you are still young and have the opportunity. You will start working and you will have less time to experience and learn. I would trade it in a second to go back and be 20 years old again and have all those opportunities.
DT: How are you currently involved in the school and what do you see for your future?
Papazian: My primary role is on the Board of Counselors for the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. In that role I have been working and continuing to work on scholarships for students. It is actually in the name of Dean Joan Schaaffer. One big role is raising money for and awarding scholarships to students in the college. I am also a member of the leadership council for the Armenian Institute. In that I am working with the Shoah Foundation to bring a collection of interviews of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. The foundation was started by Steven Spielberg. He founded it around 15 years ago and gave it to USC to run recently. They have Holocaust survivors’ interviews. I’m working on bringing the Armenian Genocide to that space.