USC Campus Trojan Statue. Photo by John Schreiber.
USC Campus Trojan Statue. Photo by John Schreiber.

An interfaith prayer service will be held Wednesday at USC in memory of Steven Sample, the university’s president from 1991 to 2010 who is credited with raising its national and international academic standing.

Sample died Tuesday at age 75.

As USC president, Sample introduced the Renaissance Scholars program and created new fields of study, helping to raise the university’s academic profile. The number of freshman applicants more than tripled during his tenure, and the number of endowed chairs and professorships also sharply rose.

Sample’s efforts to boost the university’s global outreach also led to the dramatic rise in the number of international students. He also opened offices in Asia and convened an international conference in Hong Kong in 2001.

During his presidency, the USC Building on Excellence campaign raised $2.85 billion, and USC became the first university in the country to receive five donations of $100 million or more.

“Generations from now, those studying the history of our university will quickly find themselves learning the remarkable story of Steven Sample,” USC President C.L. Max Nikias said.

“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.”

John Mork, chairman of the USC Board of Trustees, said Sample was responsible for “arguably the most dramatic rise in quality and ranking of any American university.”

“From the very start he understood the entrepreneurial zeal of USC and fueled our desire to be excellent,” Mork said. “If there were a tag line for his leadership style, it would be, ‘Never let up.’ And the results were nothing short of spectacular.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti called Sample “one of the greatest university presidents in the history of Los Angeles.”

“He was my president when I lectured at USC, and from him I learned so much about leadership,” Garcetti said

“Over his 19 years of service, Steven transformed USC into one of the nation’s leading research universities. He led by example, instilling a culture of civic engagement and community outreach that earned the university countless honors.”

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Sample earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and after teaching at Purdue University, became the president of State University of New York at Buffalo at age 41.

As an engineer, he patented a variety of inventions, including digital appliance controls such as touchpads used on microwave ovens and other appliances. He received honorary doctorates from multiple universities, including Northeastern, Purdue, Nebraska, Notre Dame and the University of Sheffield, England.

Steven and Kathryn Sample Hall is named after Sample and his wife on the USC campus. The Samples donated a bronze statue of USC’s mascot, Traveler, to the university upon his retirement. The statue overlooks USC’s Hahn Plaza.

An interfaith prayer service will be held in Sample’s memory at noon Wednesday on Hahn Plaza.

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.

— Wire reports 

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