A USC alumna donated $15 million to the Department of History at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the university announced Tuesday, calling it the largest gift ever given to one of the university’s humanities departments.
San Diego County resident Elizabeth Van Hunnick previously made a “landmark” donation in 2016 to establish the Garrett and Anne Van Hunnick Chair in European History. Combined with the new donation, her gifts represent the largest endowment to any U.S. university history department, according to USC.
“Elizabeth Van Hunnick’s generosity to our history department speaks to her passion for the humanities and history scholarship, as well as their importance at a research university like USC,” USC President Carol L. Folt said in a statement. “With this gift, she is ensuring new opportunities for both faculty and students whose scholarship rigorously examines and illuminates the history that shapes our communities and our world.”
The donation will endow three faculty chairs, establish a faculty research fund, create a graduate student fellowship, and name the department the Van Hunnick History Department.
“This landmark gift will not only provide essential support for our researchers to pursue cutting-edge scholarship, it will help the department become a magnet for outstanding new faculty, propelling this already strong department to a position of national preeminence,” USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller said in a statement. “It will enable our history department to broaden and deepen our understanding of the past, helping our students and society better address today’s most pressing problems.”
Van Hunnick, an alumna of USC Dornsife’s history department, said she hopes the gift will help attract “prominent scholars” to the university.
“That’s important because you can see what’s happening in the world today; you see leaders and politicians making the same mistakes over and over again,” she said. “Things could be different, if they would just look at history and understand what happened in other cultures and civilizations. You can truly learn a lot from the past.”