Logo: University of Southern California

A New Corporate Commander

May 11, 2007 —
Angus McColl
The USC Viterbi School Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations has a new commander, one who has quickly submerged himself in the job. Angus McColl, the new executive director of corporate and foundation relations, is leveraging 24 years in the U.S. Navy to raise funds and garner other support from corporations and foundations.

“First, I want to be an effective steward of existing relationships. Second, I want to forge new relationships,” McColl says. “Finally, I want to be an effective bridge between our faculty and corporations.”

He says many corporations have a resurgent interest in university research and teaching while due mainly to the “Global War on Terrorism,” government support for research has been softening.

Corporations know their continued success in the marketplace, depends the technological innovation that has for decades flowed from America’s research universities and they are willing to invest to see that innovation continue. But they also want see a return for any investment, says McColl.

“This has to be a symbiotic relationship,” he says. “I tell corporations that we are world class. We have a fantastic team of researchers doing cutting edge work. My desire is that the corporations will give me a list of their needs and then I can get it to the appropriate faculty at the Viterbi School.”

McColl is prospecting in two different cultures, Corporate America and the Viterbi School’s research labs. He is looking for the mother lode that results from effective university-corporation partnerships.

“We have many faculty who have formed successful partnerships and I have a lot of respect for them,” he says. “I want to help connect others to industry.”

Corporate interest in engineering education appears to be growing rapidly, he says

“Many of them are worried about where they will find their engineers in the future,” he says. “They often get back to me with ‘what can we do to help?’ and how do we recruit, especially summer interns?’ They feel an engineering student who works as an intern will be more likely to sign on as an employee when he or she graduates.”

At first glance, McColl would seem an unlikely choice to be leading corporate and foundation relations. However, he spent his final four-and-a half years in the Navy as the executive officer of USC’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit.

A native Californian who grew up in San Diego, McColl graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a B.S. in English. Yes, he has a Bachelor of Science degree and his major was English. All Naval Academy graduates are trained as technical managers and they all take basic engineering courses.

“I wanted to learn Russian and keep up my Spanish and in order to do the languages I had to be a humanities major,” he explains. Later, when interviewed by the legendary Hyman G. Rickover for admission into the Navy’s prestigious Nuclear Power Training Program, the subject of his major did not work in his favor.

“I got run up and down about being an English major,” laughs McColl.

McColl served on fast-attack submarines and on a submarine tender stationed in Guam doing nuclear propulsion plant repairs. With three scientists from the University of Texas at Austin on board, he was the navigator on a historic journey to the North Pole in spring 1990.

“We punched through the ice and spent 24 hours at the pole,” he says. “We spent 69 days under the ice. We had good morale, lots to do and I found it fascinating. It was a very exciting time in my life.”

McColl was also assigned to an aircraft carrier where among many other duties, he was the public affairs officer in charge of hosting VIPs, which included everyone from corporate executives to the Kuwaiti royal family.

“I learned a lot about PR,” he says.

McColl’s final undersea duty was as the executive officer of a ballistic missile submarine armed with 24 nuclear missiles. Along the way, he went to the Naval Postgraduate School where he earned an M.A. in national security affairs with an emphasis on strategic planning and international negotiation, and a sub emphasis on nuclear weapons treaties. He also earned an M.S. in primary and secondary education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

When leaving the Navy, he had to go through a transition program. When he inventoried his skills, he asked himself, which ones did he really like and concluded he liked technical management, teaching, academic research and public relations, which he views as telling a really great story.

“My job is corporate fundraising, which is telling a story about a really cool organization, the USC Viterbi School,” he says. “And when I was running the ROTC program, I did buy into the Trojan Family.

“I come to work every morning happy to be here,” he says.

McColl is married and the father of five daughters.