USC adds portrait of first lady Pat Nixon

(From left to right) USC President C. L. Max Nikias, Nixon Foundation President Bill Baribault and President Richard Nixon’s granddaughter Melanie Eisenhower opened the new Patricia Nixon exhibit at Town and Gown last week. Photo from Richard Nixon Foundation website.

Hundreds of people attended a ceremony last week celebrating the 80th anniversary of former First Lady Patricia Nixon’s graduation from USC.

Nixon, who was married to President Richard Nixon, graduated cum laude from USC in 1937, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. The ceremony took place in Town and Gown, and the Nixon Foundation reported that 500 people were in attendance.

Nixon’s granddaughter, Melanie Eisenhower, joined USC President C. L. Max Nikias to recognize the former first lady’s graduation anniversary. Eisenhower, the great-granddaughter of former President Dwight Eisenhower, was also elected to join the Nixon Foundation board of directors.

The University awarded three students with the Pat Nixon Scholarship earlier this year. Two of those scholars, Bernadette Lucas and John Bacolores, joined Nikias and Eisenhower to open the ceremony.

The ceremony also announced the opening of a new exhibit, holding over 40 iconic photos from the former first lady’s trips to more than 75 countries, original buttons from the “Pat for First Lady” campaign and a newly furbished portrait of Patricia Nixon commissioned by former ambassador and USC donor Walter Annenberg in 2000.

The exhibit also features Patricia Nixon’s 1937 USC diploma, with her graduation announcement and her 1961 honorary doctorate from the University. The exhibit will remain open into 2018.

Patricia Nixon was admitted to USC in 1934 on a research scholarship that covered her $240 tuition and living expenses.

While at USC, she researched for a psychology professor’s writing project and helped grade student papers. She worked multiple jobs as a cafeteria waitress, librarian, survey writer, beauty products tester, movie extra and in the University vice president’s office. Her average workweek was 40 hours, excluding her classes. 

Patricia Nixon graduated in 1937 with a degree in merchandising, with a certificate to teach at the high school level. The degree was the equivalent of a master’s degree, making her the first first lady to hold a degree of this level.

According to the Nixon Foundation, former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush sent videos that were played at the ceremony. First Lady Melania Trump sent a message which Nixon Foundation President Bill Baribault read at the ceremony.

“Mrs. Nixon is a model First Lady who acted with courage and determination to advance the lives of the underprivileged, the sick and the forgotten,” Trump wrote in the letter. “Mrs. Nixon is a true role model for us all. I join in honoring her legacy of service and love for humanity, which is worthy of our admiration and remembrance.”