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Viterbi School Establishes Leonard Silverman Chair

November 08, 2005 —
The USC Viterbi School of Engineering has established a new $2-million endowed chair to honor former Dean Leonard Silverman, the longest serving dean in the school’s history.

“Establishment of the new Leonard Silverman Chair, especially during our centennial anniversary, is a fitting tribute to the Viterbi School’s most enduring dean,” said Dean Yannis Yortsos.  “Dean Silverman provided strategic leadership during a very challenging time of growth and change in the school and in the world.” 

Former Dean Leonard Silverman

The newly endowed chair was established with funding from the estate of the late Arthur Settle, an electrical engineering alumnus, in memory of his aunt, Mary Zell.  The chair will be awarded to faculty in the Department of Electrical Engineering who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in research and teaching.

During his tenure from 1984 – 2001, Dean Silverman, a specialist in system theory, led the Viterbi School through tumultuous times marked by the Cold War, a defense buildup, fierce competition in the burgeoning space industry, and severe budget cutbacks.

He added approximately 90,000 square feet of offices and laboratories with the opening of Kaprielian Hall in 1989, and construction of the Hughes Aircraft Electrical Engineering Building in 1990.  Altogether, in the five-year period after his appointment, the Viterbi School of Engineering raised $60 million. 

Perhaps most important, in the early 1990s, Silverman successfully navigated a new environment of drastic cutbacks in aerospace engineering, traditionally one of the school’s main sources of support, which was caused by the end of the Cold War.  He made careful cutbacks through attrition, while still retaining promising young faculty and going after outstanding new faculty recruits, including USC Provost and former Viterbi School Dean C. L. Max Nikias.

“Dean Silverman’s great strength has been his ability to provide strategic directions for the school and then move decisively to implement them,” USC President Steven B. Sample said upon re-appointing Silverman to his third term as dean.

Under Silverman, the school won a National Science Foundation grant to open its first Engineering Research Center — the Integrated Media Systems Center (IMSC) — dedicated to developing multimedia and Internet technologies. The center was the first of its kind in NSF’s program, a first at USC, and an unprecedented new center for technology transfer in the state of California. 

While Silverman was dean, the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering was established and most of the faculty from the Department of Biomedical Engineering are now involved with projects at this incubation center for medical device development and commercialization.

The new Leonard Silverman Chair brings to 43 the total number of endowed chairs, professorships and early career chairs in the Viterbi School of Engineering.

--Diane Ainsworth