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.
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.”