Those who knew of Trustee and Rossier School of Education namesake Barbara J. Rossier, who died Aug. 11 at age 78 after a battle with lung cancer, remember her most for her unwavering commitment to education.
For those who knew Rossier personally, however, her commitment to education was matched only by her commitment to the Trojan community.
To USC graduate Blessing Waung, class of 2010, Rossier was not only an incredible university figure, but also a personal mentor.
“I met her at Town and Gown when I was a sophomore,” Waung said. “You’d think that she would be so intimidating because she was a trustee and a namesake, but she was the warmest, most genuine woman.”
In September 1998, Rossier and her husband, Roger, made a $20 million donation to the university’s School of Education — the largest gift ever made to an education school in the nation at the time.
“They wanted to leave a legacy of education,” Waung said. “That was the defining word of her lifetime — education.”
The school, which was renamed the USC Barbara J. and Roger W. Rossier School of Education in honor of the groundbreaking donation, has risen to 17th in the nation in graduate schools of education, according to U.S. News & World Report.
“The entire Trojan Family mourns the passing of Barbara Rossier,” President C. L. Max Nikias said in a statement. “With her extraordinary energy, unshakable integrity and abiding commitment to providing excellent educational opportunities for everyone, she was an inspiration to us all.”
A proud Trojan, Rossier received her master’s degree in educational guidance in 1962, her Master of Education in 1970 and her Doctor of Education in 1971. Her involvement with the university, however, didn’t end at graduation. A university trustee since 1999, Rossier served for 20 years on USC Rossier’s Board of Councilors. She was also a member of the Alumni Association Board of Governors and the USC Associates Board of Directors.
Waung met Rossier through her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, of which Rossier was honored as an alumna initiate. Rossier’s involvement, however, spanned the university.
In 1992, Rossier received the USC Alumni Association’s Alumni Service Award. Four years later, she was honored with the USC Rossier School of Education’s Recognition of Outstanding Service in Education (ROSE) Award.
From her cardinal and gold Smart Car to attendance at every football game, Rossier’s commitment to the university was unwavering.
“[The Rossiers] were just so genuinely proud to have served the school together,” Waung said. “Above all else, they were so proud to be Trojans. They would go to all the football games. They went to conferences everywhere from South Korea to Antarctica to support the university’s endeavors.”
To Waung, Rossier’s legacy represented what it truly meant to be a member of the Trojan Family.
“We talk about the Trojan Family, sure, and when you see someone from USC you can relate to them,” Waung said. “But when you treat them as one of your own, I feel like that’s what she taught me.”
Rossier is survived by her husband and their two sons, Dan and Steve.
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