Former USC President Steven Browning Sample died Tuesday at age 75, according to a statement issued by current President C. L. Max Nikias the same day.
Sample served as president of USC from 1991 until 2010 when Nikias succeeded him. Under his watch, according to Nikias, USC underwent a “dramatic, historic ascent,” increasing its outreach and prestige. Sample remained on the USC Board of Trustees after his tenure ended.
“So many of USC’s successes, so much of our university’s current stature can be traced back to Dr. Sample’s dynamic leadership, keen foresight, and extraordinary prudence,” Nikias told USC News. “Dr. Sample stood over our university — and led our Trojan Family — as it began its singular transformation, and for this we should all be grateful.”
During Sample’s presidency, the University began a fundraising campaign called Building on Excellence that raised over $2.85 billion, shattering goals and setting records for donations to universities. According to the Los Angeles Times, USC’s endowment under Sample peaked at $4 billion dollars prior to the Great Recession, nearly ten times its $450 million value upon his arrival to the office in 1991.
Sample also spearheaded the Good Neighbors Campaign and Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which marked larger investments in the University Park community than USC had attempted before. According to Nikias, under Sample USC transformed in ways that the community will feel “generations from now.”
Sample earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Devices created with his patents can be found in more than 300 million microwave ovens and other home appliances worldwide, according to USC News.
Sample went on to serve as a professor at Purdue University, the University of Illinois and the University of Nebraska before becoming president of the State University of New York at Buffalo.
In a statement, Steven Spielberg, famed director and USC trustee, remembered Sample’s contribution to USC, to its School of Cinematic Arts, and to Spielberg himself.
“Steve was an ‘all for one and one for all’ kind of university President,” Spielberg said. “His ‘can do’ spirit was accompanied by the word ‘now.’ That’s how he got things done.”
However, Spielberg also noted that, though he has now passed, Sample left an indelible mark on the University.
“While he left behind very big footprints, he gleefully encouraged others to fill them as President Nikias has done and will continue to do,” Spielberg said. “I’ll miss Steve, but just walking around campus, you can feel him everywhere.”
There will be an interfaith prayer service in memorial for Sample Wednesday at 12 p.m. in Hahn Plaza.