Sample to give commencement address

The university announced Friday that President Steven B. Sample, whose 19-year tenure as president concludes in August, will be this year’s commencement speaker.

Honors · President Steven B. Sample, pictured here christening a crew skull named in his honor, will speak at commencement. - Dieuwertje Kast | Daily Trojan

Sample, who announced his decision to retire in November, will address more than 10,000 graduates May 14 at the 127th annual commencement ceremony. Previous commencement speakers include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ted Koppel, Neil Armstrong and Bill Cosby.

John Callaghan, a professor who is organizing the annual commencement ceremony and is serving as the university marshal, said he believes commencement will be the best opportunity for Sample to say goodbye to the university.

“It will be the perfect occasion for him to address the students for the last time, and I am sure that he is very much looking forward to this opportunity,” Callaghan wrote in an e-mail. “But I am equally sure that he will feel considerable sadness after 19 years at the helm, when he has been so very close to so many students and their activities.”

Many USC seniors said they are also happy that Sample is getting a chance to speak to them for the last time, but some said they feel short-changed, since the commencement address is traditionally given by a high-profile figure from outside the university.

Justin Layman, a senior majoring in political science, said the announcement was definitely not what he expected.

“Last year, having Arnold Schwarzenegger was a big thing,” Layman said. “This is more of a safe pick.”

Layman also said, however, that he believes this was a good choice because Sample was one of the best presidents in USC’s history.

“This is the one case where I would be okay with not having a high-profile speaker,” Layman said. “Some people might feel robbed, but … in terms of USC, he is high-profile.”

Miho Aoki, a senior majoring in biology, said she is happy the university is honoring Sample but is disappointed the commencement speaker is not somebody unaffiliated with USC.

“I feel like we’re missing out on the whole commencement experience,” Aoki said. “As students, we don’t really have a say on who the commencement speaker is.”

Aoki said she believes the university should consider allowing students to give their input in the future.

Vanessa Kuroda, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, said she is excited for Sample’s commencement address because she has never heard him give a speech before.

“From what I’ve read about President Sample, he seems to be very inspiring,” Kuroda said. “I’m interested in what he has to say.”

Kuroda said she understands why seniors would be disappointed, but thinks this is a good chance for Sample to give his parting words.

Henry Ho, a senior majoring in biology and political science, said although he does not care much about the speaker, he is a little let down by the choice.

“Given that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the speaker last year, I guess I’m slightly disappointed,” Ho said. “But the commencement speaker isn’t a big deal for me.”

Despite slight disappointment, many seniors said they are glad to see the university honor Sample.

“I definitely think it’s great for the university because of the progress it has made under his presidency,” said Eloy Ledesma, a senior majoring in business administration. “The experience he has provided here has been invaluable and it is incomparable to other schools.”

21 replies
  1. Jeannie
    Jeannie says:

    For all of USC’s bragging about becoming a top school, the pride, (and well warranted), the excitement, how it is now more difficult to get into than ever, more applicants than ever, competing with big name schools and now top on lists, etc etc etc..and ‘global’, expanding, more international students, study abroad, etc. etc. etc., the choice of Sample as speaker for commencement is such a contradiction to that, it just seems so ’small town’ and ‘insular’ for where this school is now….yes, he is partly responsible for that, but have a special DAY to honor him, have a special WEEK for him, with tributes in his honor to give HIM the send off HE deserves..but commencement is for THE STUDENTS… no one is saying he has not done an amazing job and just about everyone recognizes honor him at commencement, but not have him as the guest speaker, when most have heard him speak many times over at school through the years. And he is a wonderful speaker.. but this is the students day. If USC is indeed up there with the other famous world renown schools then why not have guest speakers on the level those schools have? Not just some ‘celeb’, but someone OUT THERE in the WORLD, outside of the school, who has accomplished things BEYOND USC, since the hope is that our graduates will have many accomplishments BEYOND USC..I think Sample has done an amazing job. I also think he should recognize this as a once in a lifetime event for the grads, and should have been a big man, and been willing to step aside and give them the send off they deserve. Or all the bragging, all the notices sent to homes and e-mails regarding how great USC has become, pale, if the class graduating, at what seems to be the height of that rise, can’t have a world renown speaker of note on their commencement day, as other top schools have. . It seems that everything at USC has GROWN, except in this area. This area has now, this year, gotten SMALLER…If there was a committee in charge of seeking out and booking a speaker for this special day they should all be replaced, as this was not only a huge oversight, a big mistake of judgment, but seems to be laziness, taking the low road, in the extreme. Or was it University POLITICS, which would be very sad as it is the graduates who suffer …The students have been encouraged to ‘go for it’ to think big, think global, expand themselves in their years at USC, just as the school has done.. and then they get the easiest choice to speak at their graduation…and the grads, who have worked so hard, and have been so committed to, and proud of, the greatness of their school, deserve better on THEIR very special day..not the President’s day, not the Alums day, not the UNIVERSITY POWERS THAT BE day, but THEIR day.

  2. Roger
    Roger says:

    Just another day. Just another speech. Its Mr Sample again. Oh wait !!! I am graduating today …. I dont need to listen to this guy speak again…. He has his speech all mixed up .. He is reading last year’s commencement speech trying to pull of a Schwarzenegger.
    What a nightmare … Its a special day for a lot of us. Dont rob us of a befitting farewell. Mr Sample is a well respected man, but not a Commencement Speaker.
    And its USC … Live up to the name .. Make it Big.

  3. Rajat
    Rajat says:

    Can we please have some national figure not affiliated to USC administration right now?? I am not trying anyway to demean President Sample, in fact he has been a one of the best president we had till now. But still i feel like being robbed of my right and its pretty disappointing.

  4. Jane
    Jane says:

    I’ve been waiting forward to hear who our commencement speaker will be for this year. I’m pretty disappointed with who it’s going to be especially since we’ve had some high profile speakers in the past years. I’m not against the fact that Sample is speaking at our commencement, just that he IS our commencement speaker. We’re totally getting the short end of the stick and I totally feel like I’m being cheated especially since they had Schwarzenegger the year before.

  5. Vaasha
    Vaasha says:

    I agree with all these other posts. We have work hard for this day… and paid enough to get us here.. we should have someone better..

    there really is not anything else to say.

  6. Jesse
    Jesse says:

    I’m not upset that Sample is speaking, just disappointed. Let’s have Sample speak IN ADDITION to someone else!

  7. john
    john says:

    yes…very disappointing indeed. no doubt president sample has been a huge influence on usc over the last couple decades and has had a positive effect on all our educations, but, again, like so many people have pointed out, he speaks at every graduation. we should have him speak, and someone else, a high-profile individual outside the university, just like in years past. in not doing so, the university is definitely short-changing it’s students and not allowing us to have the kind of graduation we have worked hard for four years to finally be able to attend.

    USC..please have sample speak, AND someone else outside of the university!

  8. Eric
    Eric says:

    I have to agree with the above comments. While Sample has undeniably left his mark on our institution, this is a huge disappointment for the thousands of seniors who have spent their time at ‘SC. It’s not about celebrity status or anything, it’s about receiving a message from an outside voice who may inspire us. A commencement address by Sample seems to be more about the emperor leaving the throne to me. Sample would have gotten his time to speak, and deservedly so, however, the class of 2010 will always remember a tinge of disappointment when they look back on May 14th.

  9. A.S.
    A.S. says:

    This, in addition to all the construction that we have had to endure during our four years here….including the lack of a proper place for students to gather… extremely disappointing.

    We as enrolled students are contributing to the growth and future of the school as well..and will continue to be asked to contribute monetarily to the school. Just today I was called about the senior gift. Rather ironic. If you want MORE of our money and more of our loyalty, at least give us an inspiring, memorable graduation.

  10. Ben
    Ben says:

    Sad. I love President Sample, but still pretty sad. I’ve heard him speak about 5 times in the past, so that’s the only reason I want to hear someone else at my graduation. I don’t think it would be changed, but still very sad. Oh well. Goodbye USC. :(

  11. Fred
    Fred says:

    You guys are the most whiny group of students. Do we always got to have some “rockstar celebrity” to speak at our commencement?

    It’s President Sample’s final farewell and you all lack the sensitivity to acknowledge that the 19 years he spent reshaping the “University of Second Choice” to a top-notch academic powerhouse is downright disrespectful. Sample left an indelible mark on this university, and started an era that USC has never experienced prior to his term.

    • John
      John says:

      Yes, we are wining, but for good reason. President Sample speaks at EVERY graduation. It would have been more appropriate to give him longer to speak for this graduation, while also still having an outside speaker. As a senior, I have talked to many of my friends and most everyone isn’t demanding we have a “rockstar celebrity” as you might think, we just want to hear from someone outside the university, someone we wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to hear speak. I’m certain none of us mean President Sample any disrespect and the work he did for the University was part of the reason many of us chose to come here, but we deserve a graduation speaker just like the classes before us and the classes after us.

      • qu'importe
        qu'importe says:

        Very true. This was supposed as an extra honour for President Sample, but instead this decision is demeaning for our year graduates.

  12. Will
    Will says:

    This is a real disappointment. I am going to try to contact the necessary individuals in order to get a real commencement speaker.

  13. Jason
    Jason says:

    I am insanely disappointed. This is outrageous. Write John Callaghan if you are disappointed as well. This is the e-mail I wrote him.

    “I understand that President Sample has been instrumental in shaping our great university and deserves a chance to speak at Commencement, but we as students–who have put in four long, hard years–deserve a proper commencement speaker. I do not know if I am more angry or entirely disappointed, but it is not a happy feeling.

    Let President Sample speak; but please give us a real commencement speaker as well. We deserve it. That’s the honest truth

    Please take these comments seriously as they are the feelings of a great majority of the graduating student body.”

  14. Ishmael
    Ishmael says:

    I’m excited for the Steven B. Sample Commencement Ceremonies at the Steven B. Sample University of Southern Samplefornia, but I wish this university’s administration recognized that its students do not revere President Sample as Righteous Lord of All that is Wise and Great. He’s been a good president for USC, except for when he’s tried to make it all about him. This decision reeks of circular backscratching. It doesn’t bode well for USC that as Sample leaves, there isn’t a soul in the room to tell him that Commencement is not USC for “Coronation.”

  15. qu'importe
    qu'importe says:

    This is disappointing. Not that it would not be worthwhile listening to Sample, but I was really looking forward to a speech from a high-profile outsider for my Commencement. Gov. Schwarzenegger was an awesome choice. Really, they should rather have let Sample speak AND invited an external speaker as well. That might have become an event. Otherwise… no, just not interesting.

  16. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    When I read the news this morning, I was disappointed. I’ve attended USC Commencement for the past two years. I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Iger deliver humorous and inspiring addresses. No doubt Sample will rise to the occasion…

    HOWEVER, I saw Sample speak at both of those ceremonies and at various events around campus. Sample addresses the graduates every year at Commencement as he presides over the ceremony… I imagined he would do the same this year with a little longer address- his presidency does deserve to be recognized at graduation, but I don’t think giving him the main address is the way to do it. Sample as USC President has always been a main face at the graduation ceremony, making this pick altogether unimpressive.

    This sounded like a lazy decision rather than an honoring one. It should be said that the disappointment is not in having Sample speak at graduation- that’s an honor- but it’s also a foregone conclusion as it happens every year in a smaller capacity.

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