During Sample’s 19-year tenure as president, the university ascended the national academic ranks. USC became a highly selective undergraduate university, recruited many nationally prominent faculty, created a global presence, completed what was at the time the largest fundraising campaign ever in higher education and built partnerships in the communities surrounding USC’s campuses.
“Generations from now, those studying the history of our university will quickly find themselves learning the remarkable story of Steven Sample,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “So many of USC’s successes, so much of our university’s current stature can be traced back to Dr. Sample’s dynamic leadership, keen foresight, and extraordinary prudence. Dr. Sample stood over our university — and led our Trojan Family — as it began its singular transformation, and for this we should all be grateful.”
Among Sample’s achievements was a remarkable ability to attract the resources the university needed to build endowment, develop academic programs and support campus improvements.
USC’s Building on Excellence campaign raised $2.85 billion, and the university became the first in the U.S. to receive five gifts of $100 million or more. During this time, USC also secured naming gifts for seven schools, including the $110 million naming gift for the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The gift was the largest philanthropic gift ever made to a U.S. medical school at the time.
A cornerstone of Sample’s administration was building alliances and transforming USC’s neighboring communities. He launched the USC Good Neighbors Campaign asking USC faculty and staff to contribute funds to transformative programs, such as the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative, which prepares low-income students from the surrounding areas for admission to USC and other universities.
After he retired as president in 2010, Sample remained active in the life of the university. He served on the USC Board of Trustees as a life trustee, and for a time, continued to co-teach the popular undergraduate course “The Art and Adventure of Leadership” with the late management expert Warren Bennis.
A resident of Pasadena, Sample is survived by his wife, Kathryn Brunkow Sample, daughters Michelle Sample Smith and Elizabeth Sample, son-in-law Kirk Smith and grandchildren Kathryn and Andrew Smith.
by Sue Vogl and Lynn Lipinski