Sample will not disappoint as speaker

When the university announced last Friday that outgoing President Steven B. Sample would be the commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2010, some students were surprised — some even disappointed — that USC didn’t choose a higher-profile speaker to give the class its send-off.

Seniors have no reason to be upset, however. In fact, they have Sample to thank for the prestige of the USC logo on their diplomas.

When Sample accepted the post of university president in 1991, USC was ranked 51 in U.S. News & World Reports and admitted 70 percent of all applicants. Students went home on the weekends, not back to residential halls or dining facilities. Nineteen years later, we are ranked 25th and admit a scant 23.8 percent. No longer a commuter school, USC has a thriving campus and an active student body.

Under Sample’s guidance, USC has routinely recruited students of a higher caliber by providing more merit-based scholarships and financial aid. But he also made a concerted push for well-rounded students with diverse background and interests — an emphasis that shaped not only the university’s academics, but its campus atmosphere. Sample boosted USC’s clout, but he also made it into a dream college.

In the last two decades, USC has been built into the type of university that is able to attract celebrity governors and ’90s sitcom stars as commencement speakers; graduating seniors now have the honor of hearing someone who knows — perhaps better than anyone — the struggle it took to cultivate USC into a top-tier institution.

Those hoping for a flashy address need only to look into USC’s past to realize that many of the university’s most famous commencement speakers have been uninspiring. An accomplished orator, Sample will very likely enter the professional speaking circuit himself after his resignation. Attendees at the May ceremony will have the honor and privilege of hearing an experienced and attuned elocutionist.

The class of 2010 has an enviable speaker: one who is acquainted with the school intimately, one who is eloquent and one who knows, better than anyone else, how difficult it will be to leave this university.

3 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. THEIR last day at USC, NOT his, since he will still be around teaching there.

  2. katie
    katie says:

    As a graduating senior, I completely expected Sample to be the commencement speaker. I am also extremely honored that this in fact the case, as I believe no one else has had such an enormous impact on this university in the last two decades.

  3. Laurie Draper
    Laurie Draper says:

    As a graduate of USC, I cannot remember who our commencement speaker was. However, if it had been Dr. Steven Sample, I would have never forgotten and would have forever been proud to say he addressed our class. Sample has turned USC into a top-ranked university which ultimately makes every diploma more prestigious and our students more marketable.

    We should all be grateful for the time, energy, and commitment he has given to the students and community of USC.

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