$200 million donation largest in USC history

USC has received its largest single donation since the university was established in 1880.

Dana and David Dornsife, longstanding patrons of the USC Brain and Creativity Institute and the university’s neuroscience program, have donated $200 million in an unrestricted endowment to the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, which will now become the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

“This historic investment by Dana and David Dornsife in USC’s humanities, social sciences and sciences — the largest naming gift in the history of higher education for a college of letters, arts and sciences — is both transformational and inspirational,” President C. L. Max Nikias said in a press release. “Even more remarkable is that this unqualified support comes during such a challenging time for many in higher education.”

Nikias has only been president of the university for about seven months, but USC has already received three sizeable donations.

When Nikias was inaugurated Oct. 15, trustee Ming Hsieh announced a $50 million donation to the university for cancer research, and the Annenberg Foundation announced a $50 million donation to construct a new building for the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

This donation from the Dornsifes, however, is unrestricted and will allow the College to decide how and when to spend the money.

“The College of Letters, Arts & Sciences plays a vital role in the life of USC, and we wanted our support to be unrestricted in order to give the university lasting flexibility,” David Dornsife said in the same press release. “We firmly believe that the College will lead the way in solving the major problems facing society and the world today.”

The gift is not targeted to a specific cause, though it is expected to be used for faculty hiring, research and fellowships, according to the Los Angeles Times, which broke the story Tuesday night.

The university will also implement a new Dornsife Scholars Program to recognize impressive seniors who graduate from the College and plan to continue their academic pursuits and study social challenges on a national and worldwide scale.

“Dana and David’s gift demonstrates their deep understanding of a basic truth — that all human progress and enlightenment rest on a firm foundation of outstanding scholarly inquiry across traditional and emerging fields within letters, arts and sciences,” Howard Gillman, dean of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, said in the press release.

David Dornsife graduated from USC in 1965 and is a USC trustee. He is also the chairman of the Herrick Corporation, the largest steel fabricator on the West Coast. Dana Dornsife graduated from Drexel University and is the founder of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.

The $200 million donation by the Dornsifes is larger than the donation by Star Wars creator George Lucas, which helped to design a new building for the School of Cinematic Arts. Lucas donated $175 million in 2006.

Currently, the single largest gift to any college or university in the United States is the $600 million from Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel Corp., his wife Betty and their foundation, given to the California Institute of Technology in 2001, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The College enrolls about 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, has 33 academic departments and 31 research centers and institutes.

The College will permanently be known as the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences following a celebration in Bovard Auditorium on March 23 at 11 a.m.

9 replies
  1. mamartinez
    mamartinez says:

    Wow, Mr. & Mrs. Dornsife! Congrats. That’ll be some tax write-off.

    I wish people would donate anonymously, and not ask for things like “naming” rights and recognition. That would, I think, make the gift more sincere and valuable (as opposed to gauche and self-absorbed).

    • emma
      emma says:

      You really have no inside information to this donation, so it’s really not for you to say they should donate anonymously they do that all the time. It wasn’t they choice to have it publicized they were asked to so they agreed. You should read up on all the amazing things they do (not for tax write offs) that don’t get published in the media. I don’t see how people can view this as anything but sincere and generous, something to help the future of our country, our youth.

  2. Natasha brandt
    Natasha brandt says:

    This is wonderful news, since public schools money goes all to the teachers unions. FIGHT ON!

  3. John Smoh
    John Smoh says:

    Really? It is going to pass schools that have long been better academically because of this money? Ignoring the fact that many of schools have just as much if not more money, the biggest issues is that USC undergrads are not as intellectual as at other top schools. They need to change the campus culture before they will move into the elite.

  4. Rich Salas
    Rich Salas says:

    INCREDIBLE! USC will use this money to continue to climb the rankings into the top 10 Universities!

  5. John Smoh
    John Smoh says:

    It would be nice to hear some specifics on how the money will be spent. It is a major boost for USC though. Maybe they will actually have some top 10 departments in the future.

    • John Matthews
      John Matthews says:

      They just announced the gift. In all likelihood, they won’t receive the money for awhile (assuming it’s a vesting gift) or won’t be able to liquidate it quickly (if say, it’s in the form of stock). Therefore, although the money has been pledged, how can they even decide what to do with it when they don’t even have it yet (much less know how much cash will be the result)?

  6. Trojan c/o 2011
    Trojan c/o 2011 says:

    It is so refreshing to hear stories like this, especially in the midst of budget cuts – which seem to be aimed toward education and social services. Fight on!

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