USC conferred more than 12,000 degrees at the university’s 130th annual commencement celebration Friday.
Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine gave the morning’s keynote address.
Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre announced a $70 million donation last week to the university to establish the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.
In his speech, Iovine noted two events that changed the course of his life.
At 23, he was working as a sound engineer on Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.
“Listening to Jon [Landau, Springsteen’s manager]’s five words — ‘this is not about you’ — became the tipping point for every gift that’s followed in my life,” Iovine said. “At that moment, I began to learn how to push aside my own personal issues and my desperate need to be right so I could focus on what was truly important.”
Iovine then spoke of his second life lesson at the hands of Napster, an online file-sharing service founded in 1999. Because Interscope relied on album sales for profit, Iovine needed a friend to remind him that “everything you know could already be wrong.”
“I was scared to death … I want you all to get comfortable with your fears, because fear is a fact of life that you can use to your advantage,” Iovine said. “Because when you learn to harness the power of your fears, it can take you places beyond your wildest dreams. Because here’s the good news: Fear has a lot of firepower.”
Zach Lindberg, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, appreciated Iovine’s first lesson.
“It’s important to take on a role where you just want to gain knowledge and do the best you can for whatever organization you’re working for,” Lindberg said. “It was good to see him be so successful with that mentality.”
Iovine ended his speech by welcoming Dre to the stage and reciting lyrics from R. Kelly’s 2003 hit “Remix to Ignition.” The rapper told the crowd that he was happy to now be considered a Trojan.
“I was like, ‘Dr. Dre, he called himself a Trojan, that’s awesome!’ I thought that was really neat,” said Lindberg, who will start working with Wells Fargo in June.
Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni honored USC philosophy professor Dallas Willard, who died May 8, in his invocation.
Willard outlined four questions that every person should answer, Soni said, asking graduates to reflect upon them. “What is reality? Who is blessed? Who is a truly good person? And how does one become a truly good person?”
President C.L. Max Nikias emphasized the university’s focus on service, noting that Teach for America accepted 105 USC graduates into its prestigious two-year teaching program, more than any other U.S. university.
USC awarded more than 400 doctorates and six honorary degrees: to biologist Sir John Gurdon, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine; playwright David Henry Hwang; Iovine; university trustee Glorya Kaufman, whose November donation established the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at USC and university trustees Edward and Gayle Roski.
Receiving salutatorian honors were Alex Fullman, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and will use a Marshall Scholarship to study at Oxford University this fall, and Julia Mangione, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and led the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation on campus.
Valedictorian Katherine Fu, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and minored in popular music, described the importance of graduates trusting one another for support and advice.
“Surround yourself with the people who can help,” Fu said. “You do not go forward alone. You go forward as a member of the Trojan Family.”